Port of Everett craves cargo that won’t fit in a box

EVERETT — Consistency can be hard to come by on the Port of Everett’s waterfront.

It’s the nature of the port’s niche — handling cargo too big or too heavy to fit in a container. That’s called break-bulk cargo. It includes things like big tractors and massive electrical transformers.

A 291-ton transformer recently moved through the port en route to the Cherry Point refinery, said Walter Seidl, the port’s marketing director.

“You don’t have regularly scheduled ships moving 291-ton transformers. They only need one,” he said.

As marketing director at the Port of Everett, Seidl’s job is to make sure the seaport’s piers and terminals are as busy as possible.

Tacoma and Seattle have the state’s busiest ports. They mostly handle standardized containers, which dominate marine shipping. Containers are efficient in high volume, but they don’t work for everybody.

Everett’s focus on the business of moving big, heavy things requires a soft touch. The port has to maintain a reputation for taking care of customer cargo, Seidl said.

Things like massive transformers and airplane assemblies can’t be treated all the same.

Also, the port has to do what it can to make everyone’s job easier, from shippers to customs agents. “If we do what we can to make the customs agents’ job easier, they can do their work faster, they can clear ships more quickly. Word gets out” to the shipping industry that cargo won’t sit in line for customs inspection, he said.

Reputation and relationships are critical to keeping the port busy, Seidl said. “It’s customer service 101, it really is.”

The Port of Everett’s most consistent cargo comes from Boeing. Goods headed for the airplane maker’s nearby plant come in by cargo ship to either Tacoma or Everett, where they are transferred to barges.

The barges then move the cargo to the port’s Mount Baker Terminal in Mukilteo. From there, it is put on rail cars for a short run up Japanese Gulch to Boeing’s Everett plant at Paine Field.

“They are very consistent. They have an order book that stretches out for years,” Seidl said.

By the beginning of September, 52 barges had moved through the port, compared to 40 during the same period last year, according to port data.

But ship calls lagged during the same period, with 67 this year compared to 79 last year.

Seidl expects the total of ship and barge calls to Everett this year will be about the same as last year, 185 — 112 ships and 63 barges.

April through October are the port’s busiest months. Some of those shipments are bound for Russia and China.

Much of what moves to China is farm equipment, while Russia-bound cargo includes mining equipment, RVs and luxury cars.

So far, the number of Russia-bound ships has not changed from last year, despite economic sanctions between the U.S. and Russia — prompted by the latter’s invasion of Crimea and ongoing proxy war in eastern Ukraine, Seidl said.

However, the conflict’s uncertainty has prompted some schedule changes, he said.

Two vessels owned by SASCO, a Russia-based shipping line, came to Everett in June. They typically arrive in August.

“We’re waiting” to see if the port is affected by the geopolitics, he said.

The cargo tonnage moved by the port is ahead of last year, as well, mainly due to a slight bump in commodity shipments, Seidl said.

The port has moved a couple more log shipments than it did last year, and last month it had its first cement ship since the economic recession began in 2008.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

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. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to add Boeing 737s to the Paine Field fleet

It’s a sign of the growing popularity of flying from Everett. So far, much smaller Embraer E175s have been the rule.

FILE - Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson talks to reporters, Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, during a news conference in Seattle. In a 5-4 decision Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022, the Washington Supreme Court upheld an $18 million campaign finance penalty against the Consumer Brands Association, formerly known as the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Ferguson sued the group in 2013, alleging that it spent $11 million to oppose a ballot initiative without registering as a political committee or disclosing the source of the money. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
Washington justices uphold $18M fine in GMO-labeling case

Big grocers funneled dark money into a campaign against genetically modified labels on food packaging.

Mara Wiltshire, left, celebrates her first place finish in Mario Cart against her son Miles Jenkins, 7, as Calvin Jenkins, 5, looking on Friday evening at their home in Everett, Washington on January 7, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Child care’s heightened burden takes parents out of workforce

One Snohomish County mom said she couldn’t return to work “because I didn’t have child care and I wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

In this photo taken May 17, 2017, wine barrels are shown at a vineyard adjacent to the Walla Walla Vintners winery in Walla Walla, Wash. The remote southeastern Washington town of Walla Walla - which used to be best known for sweet onions and as home of the state penitentiary - has now reinvented itself into a center of premium wines and wine tourism. (AP Photo/Nicholas K. Geranios)
More sustainable Washington wines are on the way

Labels will indicate grape growers met guidelines in 9 areas, including water, pest and labor practices.

A sign bearing the corporate logo hangs in the window of a Starbucks open only to take-away customers in this photograph taken Monday, April 26, 2021, in southeast Denver.  Starbucks is no longer requiring its U.S. workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19, reversing a policy it announced earlier this month. The Seattle coffee giant says, Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022,  it's responding to last week’s ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.  (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Starbucks nixes vaccine mandate after Supreme Court ruling

The move reverses a policy the coffee company announced earlier this month.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Stanwood in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Regulators OK doubling of composting operation in Stanwood

Lenz Enterprises can now handle 150,000 tons a year. Residents worry odors will be a problem.

Christian Sayre
Everett bar owner arrested again on new sexual assault charges

Christian Sayre, longtime owner of The Anchor Pub, was charged Friday with 10 counts of felony sex offenses.

FILE - Bill Gates speaks during the Global Investment Summit at the Science Museum, London, Tuesday, Oct, 19, 2021. A small city in the top U.S. coal-mining state of Wyoming will be home to a Bill Gates-backed experimental nuclear power project near a coal-fired power plant that will soon close, officials announced Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021. (Leon Neal/Pool Photo via AP, File)
Microsoft to review workplace harassment, including Bill Gates allegations

One engineer wrote in a letter that she had a sexual relationship with Gates over several years.

Snohomish roofing company fined another $425K for safety violations

Allways Roofing has had at least seven serious injuries on its job sites, according to the state.

Most Read