Port of Everett had a very busy year

EVERETT — Construction work in Canada and undersea oil exploration off Alaska helped keep the Port of Everett busy this past year. Port commissioners approved a $78 million budget that includes $18.5 million in projects to help the port handle bigger cargo ships, which have been steadily growing since the 1950s.

Port officials expect traffic to drop slightly — about 4 percent — this year, largely due to lower prices for commodities, a niche business for the port. Other challenges include lower oil prices, a strong U.S. dollar and ongoing economic sanctions on Russia, said Lisa Lefeber, the port’s spokeswoman.

Aerospace cargo is expected to stay strong this year, she said.

Thousands of containers and pieces of oversized cargo arrive in Everett for Boeing’s nearby factory, where it assembles its twin-aisle jetliners.

In 2015, 195 cargo ships called at Everett, moving 422,488 tons of goods through the seaport. That was highest number of ships since 2000, the most recent year for which data are immediately available.

The cargo tonnage was the third highest amount handled by the port since 2000. It was down slightly from the 449,120 tons the port moved in 2014. The difference was from a drop in the amount of timber being shipped out of Everett.

In order to keep the city’s waterfront busy, the port plans to build longer berths to handle bigger cargo ships, which have been steadily getting larger for several decades. The port is still in the planning stage for extending berths to more than 1,000 feet long by 2020.

This past August, the Westwood Robson arrived in Everett to deliver aerospace parts and general cargo from Japan. The ship had to dock at the port’s Pier 1, the only berth big enough to handle the 686-foot-long container ship. Even then, the ship’s bow stuck out 36 feet past the pier into the waterway.

“We are committed to enhancing our facilities to meet current and future customer needs, and to stay competitive in the global marketplace,” Port Chief Operating Officer Carl Wollebek said. “Industry trends are calling for larger berths to accommodate larger vessels, so that’s what we are going to do.”

The port plans to spend $18.5 million this year to upgrade facilities for bigger ships. The work includes harbor dredging, improving the port’s railroad connections, purchasing cargo handling equipment and planning for extending shipping berths.

In all, port officials expect it will cost about $313 million to do all the necessary work to handle the bigger ships.

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

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