Everett is stepping up efforts in shipping

Much of the news surrounding the Port of Everett in recent years hasn’t been about what you’d expect – ships coming and going to deliver goods here or elsewhere.

These days, the talk has centered on a new marina, getting started on a $200 million redevelopment of waterfront land for condos, shops and offices, and a recent agreement to sell an entire industrial park to a one client, a modern-age sawmill.

In the meantime, shipments of alumina ore for a Montana mill and exports of timber overseas, once major port activities, are at a relatively low ebb, especially when compared to a decade ago.

Has the port remodeled itself into a land developer? A provider of swanky homes and boat slips for the yachting set?

Perhaps, but certainly not by design.

It’s been working hard to build up its shipping business, having purchased some container cranes from the Port of Seattle and also experimented with bringing in fruit from New Zealand, warehousing it in a refrigerated building and helping the company distribute it around the country.

The fruit imports have slowed this year, partly because the falling dollar has made it less attractive, Carl Wollebek said the other day.

Wollebek, the port’s terminal director, said recently that he expects the first apple shipment in June of about 1,200 to 2,400 pallets, not a big deal by any means. But there’s a lot of other activity on the waterfront.

“We’re going to be pretty busy this spring and summer,” Wollebek said.

One shipper recently picked up a load of industrial equipment, such as excavators, trucks, etc., for shipment to Canada.

Four huge cargo vessels are expected after July to start picking up mining equipment for delivery to the Russian Arctic, including a large number of 40-foot by 10-foot trailers for housing in the mining camps.

There will also be a couple of shipments to Japan of 90-foot-long blades for windmills to produce electricity.

Wollebek also told the port’s three commissioners last week that the Boeing Co. is in negotiations with a carrier to make Everett a regular port of call for jet parts made overseas.

That would be a major coup for the port, because the shipper would likely also use Everett to pick up and deliver other cargo, which would provide a lot more jobs for dockworkers.

Dan Becker, manager of Boeing’s Everett manufacturing site (see story above), said last week that he wasn’t ready to talk about any direct shipping plan.

But when he is ready, an announcement would certainly be good news. Right now, a lot of parts are shipped to Tacoma and Seattle and then barged to Everett, with the other ports getting all the related business.

That doesn’t mean Everett isn’t continuing with plans for a pier to receive parts that can then be sent by rail directly to the Everett plant.

The pier would be located closer to Mukilteo than the port’s existing piers, in an area that is part of the “usual and accustomed fishing areas” of several tribes.

Negotiations with the tribes, including the Tulalips, continue after many months of talks. And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers won’t provide a permit for the work until the port wins tribal approval.

It’s crunch time now, because port officials say it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to complete the pier by next year if the talks aren’t completed by May 10.

That’s when the port needs to select a contractor so work can begin this fall during the period that underwater work won’t hurt young salmon.

If the negotiations continue into the summer, contractors will have to wait until the “salmon window” that begins in fall 2006.

Mike Benbow: 425-339-3459; benbow@heraldnet.com.

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