Gov. Jay Inslee briefly speaks with the media at the Port of Everett Seaport on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Inslee was in town to meet with Port officials and discuss future improvements to a pier that would allow electric vessels to charge while moored at the Seaport.

Gov. Jay Inslee briefly speaks with the media at the Port of Everett Seaport on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. Inslee was in town to meet with Port officials and discuss future improvements to a pier that would allow electric vessels to charge while moored at the Seaport.

Gov. Inslee stops by to visit the electrifying Port of Everett

The port can supply electrical power to docked ships instead of burning diesel. But without a standard plug, it can’t happen.

EVERETT — Electric eels have been around for eons, so why not all-electric tugboats and barges?

More battery-powered ships should hit the water soon, and when they drop anchor they’ll need to plug in.

They’re not yet ready for high seas duty, but are capable of crisscrossing Puget Sound, for example, or carrying cargo from the Everett seaport to the Mount Baker Terminal in Mukilteo.

And the Port of Everett wants to make sure they can power up when they dock.

The state Legislature recently awarded the port $5 million to electrify Pier 3, a 650-foot dock built in 1973.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee stopped by to check on progress.

It’s a two-part project essentially adding EV chargers for electric tugs and barges, and installing infrastructure that would allow cargo ships to plug into the electric grid instead of running their diesel engines while docked.

Gov. Jay Inslee, center left, meets with Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber, center, and COO Carl Wollebek, center right, at the Port of Everett Seaport on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Gov. Jay Inslee, center left, meets with Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber, center, and COO Carl Wollebek, center right, at the Port of Everett Seaport on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The upgrades will reduce the seaport’s carbon footprint and cut annual carbon dioxide emissions by more than 600 tons, port CEO Lisa Lefeber told Inslee.

“When we burn diesel it pollutes our environment, hurts our kids and causes asthma, but the Port of Everett is doing something about it,” Inslee said Wednesday.

It benefits the climate, local residents and a growing number of manufacturers insisting on cleaner supply chains.

“We’re building a clean energy economy, one connection at a time, and this is a big deal,” Inslee said.

The Everett seaport supports nearly $21 billion worth of U.S. exports annually. It is the third-largest container port in Washington, port officials note.

Pier 3 at the Port of Everett Seaport is seen on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Pier 3 at the Port of Everett Seaport is seen on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

In the past 15 years, the port has spent $115 million, a combination of state and federal funds, to upgrade the south pier.

The south pier is fully wired. The infrastructure to allow ships to plug into shore power when they tie up is installed.

“We were one of the first ports to put in the electrical conduit for shore power at the south terminal,” Lefeber told Inslee.

The connections are ready to go. The Snohomish County Public Utility District is on board, ready to supply the necessary power, Lefeber said.

There’s just one hitch.

The maritime industry has yet to agree on a standard plug or charger, the port CEO said. It’s akin to Android phones and iPhones — their chargers aren’t interchangeable.

Gov. Jay Inslee and Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber take a look at Pier 3 while discussing future plans for the Port of Everett Seaport on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The Port is raising funds to renovate Pier 3 and make it capable of charging electric vessels. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Gov. Jay Inslee and Port of Everett CEO Lisa Lefeber take a look at Pier 3 while discussing future plans for the Port of Everett Seaport on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2024, in Everett, Washington. The Port is raising funds to renovate Pier 3 and make it capable of charging electric vessels. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

The International Maritime Organization needs to decide on a standard charging system so seaports and ships can finally plug in, Lefeber said.

“It doesn’t make sense at this point to make the investment because you might have to swap it out later on,” Lefeber said. “The plugs are over $1 million each.”

She added: “The technology is there, now a standard is needed.”

The American Association of Port Authorities, of which Lefeber is a member, is also urging the maritime organization to adopt a standard charger.

“I look forward to coming back and plugging in,” Inslee said.

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

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