A couple walks in Harborview Park as the Seaspan Brilliance, a 1,105-foot cargo ship, is moored near the Port of Everett on Wednesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

A couple walks in Harborview Park as the Seaspan Brilliance, a 1,105-foot cargo ship, is moored near the Port of Everett on Wednesday. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Purchase Photo

Amid import delays, Everett hosts 1,100-foot container ship

The Seaspan Brilliance has been anchored in Port Gardner for over a week. The ship is bound for Canada.

EVERETT — It’s an unusual sight, a king-size container ship anchored in Port Gardner near the Port of Everett — but thar she loafs.

The 1,105-foot-long Seaspan Brilliance dropped anchor more than 10 days ago, containers piled high on deck.

“Container ships do not normally go to anchor,” said Mike Moore, vice president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association, a trade group representing marine terminal and cargo vessel operators.

There’s a simple reason they stay under way, Moore said. A ship that’s not under way or at a dock, loading or unloading, “is not making money,” he said.

The ship’s last port of call was the Port of Tacoma. The vessel’s next destination is the Port of Vancouver in British Columbia, said Peter McGraw, a spokesman for the Port of Seattle.

But with a backup of ships at the Port of Vancouver, the Brilliance has had to lay anchor in Port Gardner. Time-consuming COVID-19 safety protocols, coupled with a surge in consumer goods imports, are causing slowdowns and backups at some of North America’s largest ports.

“There’s a backlog” for loading in Canada, said Laird Hail, director of the Puget Sound Vessel Traffic Service of Coast Guard sector Puget Sound. Much like air traffic control, the service directs boat traffic and manages the Coast Guard’s designated anchorage areas, where ships can “park” for short stretches, usually three to 30 days. Elliott Bay, Anacortes and Port Gardner, which only has one designated parking space, are on the general anchorage list.

A spike in imports

Demand for consumer goods has surged. With no place to go but home, many households are buying toys, furniture, paint, garden tools and other items, according to the National Retail Federation.

“Nobody would have thought last spring that 2020 would be a record year for imports,” said Jonathan Gold, the retail federation’s vice president for supply chain and customs policy. “Retail sales saw strong growth during 2020, even with the pandemic.”

And the shopping spree is expected to continue, he said, potentially creating more port backups.

The backup at the Port of Vancouver, which has two main terminals and five container berths, is minor compared to backlogs in Southern California, Moore said.

The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have had up to 40 container ships at anchor waiting to load or unload cargo. Ships carrying goods from Asia have backed up at West Coast ports in particular, Moore said.

Puget Sound hasn’t been affected, so far, except for anchoring several Vancouver-bound container ships, such as the Brilliance, Moore said.

“We have plenty of capacity at our terminals — Seattle and Tacoma — so no backups here,” the Port of Seattle’s McGraw said.

If you’re wondering why the Port of Everett couldn’t help shoulder the off-loading burden, it’s because container ships can’t just pull into any terminal. Their movement is governed by U.S. Customs and maritime law, port schedules and terminal capacity. And the port couldn’t lend a hand to the Brilliance if it wanted to. The seaport can only accommodate 700-foot ships.

Could Everett see more container ships at anchor this year? Perhaps, Moore said.

The Brilliance is scheduled to start its engines and get moving this week. In the meantime, there’s no shore leave for crew members. COVID-19 maritime restrictions have kept them in their quarters.

Lit up at night

From her Everett home, Cynthia Thomas has gotten used to seeing the big blue container ship floating peacefully in the bay. Per Coast Guard rules, it’s running generators for power. At night, it’s lit up like a Christmas ship.

“Right now the sun is shining on it and it looks very pretty,” Thomas said.

Still, Thomas is concerned. A check of the vessel tracking service FleetMon.com says the Brilliance is carrying hazardous cargo, she said.

Without a copy of the ship’s manifest, it’s not clear what it’s carrying, Moore said. However, household cleaning supplies, perfumes with alcohol and even medical supplies are classified as hazardous cargo, Moore said. Plus, a ship carrying thousands of containers is bound to have a mix of consumer goods, including items classified as hazardous.

The Coast Guard says there’s no cause for alarm.

“Whether its toothbrushes or natural gas, everything is stowed according to international shipping regulations,” said an officer with the 13th Coast Guard District, which covers Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.

Hail, the vessel traffic director, says the stopover in Everett is unusual.

“I’m sort of surprised it’s there, myself,” he said.

“Container ships are normally in and out. The only time they normally go to anchor is if they have a piece of equipment that needs to be repaired,” Hail said. “Very rarely we’ve had to put a ship at Port Gardner. I would say once every other month, and if we do, it’s generally a bulk ship carrying grain or cement.”

Janice Podsada; jpodsada@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3097; Twitter: JanicePods

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Chai Cupboard is a new loose tea and spice shop downtown, owned by Jeni Ellis and husband Tim, on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
New downtown Everett store offers loose tea and spices

Bring your tea caddy or spice jar: Chai Cupboard carries more than 100 teas and 100 spices.

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. Many new Boeing 737 Max jetliners are still grounded by an electrical problem in a backup power-control unit. The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday, April 22, 2021 that 106 planes worldwide are grounded, including 71 in the United States. Airlines are waiting for Boeing to come up with a plan for repairing the planes, and that plan would need FAA approval. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Halt to 737 Max deliveries stymies Boeing’s recovery effort

So far in 2021, the company has delivered 94 jets and won 84 net new orders.

Highland Simulant, a simulated lunar soil made by Off Planet Research, pours from a researcher's hands. Photo credit: Off Planet Research
Space company makes a soft landing at the Port of Everett

Off Planet Research creates simulated lunar soils here, so that moon landers can touch down gently.

Owners Krista and Eric Brown sit among rows of wines at The Grape & Grain, a new independent beer and wine store on Evergreen Way, on Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
New Everett wine and beer shop focuses on local brands

The Grape & Grain store offers wine and beer from “our backyard” — Washington, Oregon and California.

Students use a modular skills trainer during class Thursday morning at Edmonds Community College on April 29, 2021.
(Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Nurses Week, from May 6- 12, honors the nation’s caregivers

Local nursing students and faculty say they couldn’t let the pandemic get in the way of their goals.

The Waterfront Place Apartments north building at the Port of Everett’s Waterfront Place cold see residents moving in by May 15. on Thursday, April 22, 2021 in Everett, Washington. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Now playing at the Port of Everett: sudden density

New Waterfront Place Apartments open May 15 at the port — local retailers welcome the influx.

Indian drink condiments cartoon vector illustration. Traditional beverage flavourings in wooden bowls flat color object. Tea additives, hot drink ingredients isolated on white background
You voted: The best Indian food in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people still have their favorites.

FILE - In this Feb. 14, 2019, file photo, people stand in the lobby for Amazon offices in New York. Amazon, which has been under pressure from shoppers, brands and lawmakers to crack down on counterfeits on its site, said Monday, May 10, 2021, that it blocked more than 10 billion suspected phony listings last year before any of their offerings could be sold. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
Amazon blocked 10 billion listings in counterfeit crackdown

Scammers tried to take advantage of shoppers who were buying more online during the pandemic.

A Mexican tacos food truck, people ordering and waiting their takeaway food
You voted: The best food truck in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people still have their favorites.

One of the Jetty Island ferry captains waits for boarders as the ferry begins operations for the summer on Wednesday, Jul. 6, 2016 in Everett, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Port, county to pay Everett for Jetty Island ferry this year

The Port of Everett and Snohomish County plan to make an online system for $3 reservations.

Boeing crash victims’ families push for changes at FAA

Hundreds are demanding the ouster of the agency’s administrator, Stephen Dickson, and others.

fish and chips cartoon
You voted: The best fish and chips in Snohomish County

Even during a pandemic, people still have their favorites.