Shore Power Implemented at Seattle’s T5 as Union Dispute Continues

Seattle shore power
MSC's containership was the first to use the shore power connection (NWSA photos)

Published Apr 14, 2023 5:15 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Northwest Seaport Alliance marked the first use of its new shore power installation at Seattle’s Terminal 5 as part of a strategy to introduce shore power to all the international container terminals in the port. The port authority is working with Washington State and Seattle City Light on the development of the capability which however also became the center of an inter-union jurisdictional dispute during the redevelopment of the terminal.

Commissioning of the new equipment was recently completed and made available for the first time on April 10 for the MSC Brunella (8,800 TEU). The 109,800 dwt containership registered in Portugal is an eight-year-old vessel built in 2015 and operating on MSC’s California Express route. The ship sails between Vancouver, the Pacific Northwest, and along the Pacific Coast through the Panama Canal to the Mediterranean in its service.

The installation of the shore power capability involved a broad partnership and more than just installing the equipment at Terminal 5. Seattle City Light was a critical collaborator to ensure the grid and generation capability was able to support the use of shore power for the vessels.

“The Northwest Seaport Alliance is committed to reducing maritime emissions in our harbors and the launch of shore power utilization at Terminal 5 is an important milestone for our gateway,” said Sam Cho, Co-Chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance. “We appreciate our partners, SSA Terminals, Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), Pacific Crane Maintenance Company (PCMC), and the International Longshore Workers Union (ILWU) Local 19 for working alongside the NWSA to ensure shore power is successful at Terminal 5.”

The Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy targets the installation of the shore power infrastructure at all the international container terminals by 2030. The Husky Terminal in the South Harbor and Terminal 18 in the North Harbor as the next projects scheduled to be completed.

“We thank the Washington State Legislature for their $4.4 million investment in Terminal 5 shore power,” said Deanna Keller, Co-Chair of The Northwest Seaport Alliance Co-Chair. She noted that they look forward to expanding shore power infrastructure across all the NWSA facilities.


First use of shore power was carried on April 10 at Seattle's T5 (NWSA photo)


Terminal 5 was selected as the first to receive the equipment as part of the modernization program that began in 2019 to restore the unused facility. Operations at the north berth began in January 2022 and Phase Two of the modernization is underway with operations at the south berth expected to start in 2024. At full completion, Terminal 5 will provide 185 acres of cargo capacity.

In starting the project at Terminal 5, SSA found itself caught in an inter-union jurisdictional dispute which is ongoing and overhanging the current contract talks for the collective bargaining agreement between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore Workers Union. The dispute centers around which union should be carrying out maintenance and repair work at T5 around the shore power installation. The ILWU says under the contract the work should be assigned to members of its local while members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) have historically done this type of work at the terminal and was preferred by SSA. Last week, the National Labor Relations Board supported a decision for the IAM while the ILWU continues to pursue its claim in court.