EVERETT — Rep. Rick Larsen and Sen. Patty Murray on Wednesday pledged continued support for the Port of Everett’s construction plans to handle bigger cargo ships.
The two Democratic members of Congress backed the port’s successful pursuit of a $10 million federal construction grant. Port officials showed Larsen and Murray what they plan to do with the money, which will help pay for work to upgrade the port’s South Terminal.
The improvements are necessary in order to handle bigger cargo ships, Port of Everett Chief Executive Les Reardanz said during the walking tour.
Ocean freighters are getting bigger. The largest container ships today are about one-third bigger than they were just 10 years ago, said Capt. Grant Stewart, vice president of marine operations and vessel safety for Westwood Shipping Lines.
Longshoremen moved containers off a 650-foot Westwood ship as the elected officials and their entourage walked by. The vessel was nearly as long as the wharf it was tied to.
“This ship is about the maximum that Everett can handle,” Stewart said.
Lengthening the port’s wharves is not enough, though.
“So much depends on getting the containers out of the port” quickly and reliably, he said.
The port’s upgrade plans include extended its rail connections, allowing for faster loading and unloading of rail cars. The agency also is working with the city of Everett to widen intersections, making it easier to move containers to the highway. Everett Mayor Ray Stephanson and Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers joined the group for the stroll.
“There’s a lot of future work to be done” on Everett’s waterfront, Murray said. She said she will continue to work with port officials to find ways the federal government can help.
Congress members can help in part by “being a cheerleader” for the port in Washington, D.C., Larsen said. It also means making sure federal agencies know when the port’s needs match a grant program’s goals.