Monday, February 3, 2014

The Port of Seattle and the Duwamish River

Seattle is known as the Emerald City but only West Seattle is still Emerald as you can see in the lower laft hand corner, they haven't cut down all their Emerald trees.

The Port has a large foot print, the Island in the center is the Man mande Harbor Island, the Duwamish River is the waterway running South from the port.

This is a snapshot from the Marinetraffic application on my Iphone. You can see the ships coming and going from the Pacific through the Strait of Juan De Fuca and head North to Canadian ports or South to Seattle and Tacoma. You can tap on the ship icons and get instant information regarding their navigation and destination and their Hailing port. You can go to to get the same on your computer.. 

Looking out of our Condo window you can see these behemoths sailing in almost everyday.
All the West coast Ports are worried about their future with container ships since these big guys that carry 15,500 containers like the one above will be able to go through the new Panama Canal in 2015. Their hopes are riding on the new ultra Large ships that will carry 20,000 containers. All the Gulf of Mexico and East Ports are competing for the new business these guys will bring by upgrading bridges and port facilities. Corpus Christi has a new Bridge in the Works along with increased dredging of the Corpus Christi Ship Canal. 

We often walk along a hike and bike trail and get a close up of the Bulk Cargo ships loading up with Americana Grain.

One Ship can hold the contents of about 9 of the silos.

Just on the edge of Downtown
Here you can see three identical Dry bulk cargo ships all from different countries anchored near the Grain silos just waiting their turn at the single dock. The last one in has about a 4 week wait, The crew won't be allowed ashore till they dock!

Tugs pulling barges loaded with containers and all manner of other stuff never stop 24/7

The Coast Gurd keeps a watchful eye on Puget Sound 24/7

It appears someone converted a Workboat into a personal trawler for themselves. 

The Port of Seattle and the Duwamish River

Almost every day one or more Container Ships sail out of the Pacific Ocean and into the Strait of Juan De Fuca entering Puget Sound to the Port of Seattle.  There are a lot more that continue on to the Port of Tacoma or head North to several Canadian Ports like Vancouver. Along with the container ships are also lots of other cargo ships: dry bulk (grain), petro-chemical, automobiles, and every other product that is bought and sold on the world markets. The Global Economy is right out in front in Elliot Bay where, sitting from the vantage point of our grandsons’ home, I study this economic phenomena.
I use to track vessels and get information regarding their speed heading and destination. It is about 140 NM.from the entrance of Strait of Juan De Fuca to the Port of Seattle so a ship steaming at 22 knots can make this leg in less than 7 hours (it would take a sailboat 24 hours+ to make the same trip depending on currents). Of course it is easy to determine who owns the vessel and go to the company websites to get ship specifications etc. A large portion of the Port of Seattle is constructed on Harbor Island which is the largest Man Made Island in the US and sits at the mouth of the Duwamish River.
All matter of shipping is interesting to me, I guess it is just a by product of being a sailor and boat owner but since I am in the position of sitting and watching the boats of all sizes come and go in Elliot Bay for hours every morning while I care for our 5 month old grandson I entertain myself by asking questions and searching for the answers. In Corpus Christi we can easily see the Ship Canal about 3/4 mile North of our slip and it is interesting to watch the ships come and go but since the Ship canal is very limited to the amount of traffic it can manage and the Port is mostly out of sight, it just has never stimulated the kind of interest that the Port of Seattle does. The Puget Sound VTS (Vessel Traffic System) controls all the commercial vessels in Puget Sound and publishes the rules for recreational boaters (which there are thousands and thousands of in the Sound):

The interest in the Port of Seattle also led to an interest in the Duwamish River. It runs South of the port for miles and 6 of those miles has lots of industrial companies that are spin-offs of the port, Maritime business, Boeing Aircraft, and Industrial support for the City of Seattle lining both banks. The Duwamish was declared a Superfund CleanUp site by the federal Government in 1990's Superfund sites and their status can be found on the EPA website , Check it out you can find the sites located near YOUR home. The Duwamish River and the industry that lines it’s banks are integral to the Port of Seattle so it is hard to separate the two whenever you are trying to learn a bit of History, the present on goings, and a look to the future as well. The good news is that The Port and the Industry located on the Duwamish have turned the corner and are in the process of cleaning up the mess and planning on how to mitigate a  hundred years of pollution. All the Stake Holders including the Duwamish Indians have signed on to the preliminary plan of saving the industry along the Duwamish banks so that the economy and jobs do not take a hit. They are not out to close down any business, just clean up the river in a socially responsible way. Clinton ended the “Funds” in the Superfund so now cleanup cost are to be born by the polluters and local government. Needless to say there is not enough money right now to get the job done quickly so it is forecasted to be a 40-50 year job to get the river and the water entering Elliot Bay and Puget sound cleaned up to levels acceptable by the stakeholders.

The environmental consciousness here in the PNW is very strong so I was very surprised that there was such a environmental disaster anywhere near all this pristine looking water with all the forest and mountains. They recycle everything here you barely have any household garbage at all since it is so efficient. I am sure part of the problem is the geography, everything runs down hill with the seasonal rains and large river and stream tributary systems both natural and man made. I viewed several Youtube videos on the Duwamish seen here:

This one has some of the best video but it has a anti-capitalist message,  but so what,  it certainly will not change capitalism!

I am most interested in the Container Ships and the Dry Bulk Grain ships since they are the most obvious to my ship watching activities

About the Container Ships

You can find out how container ships work here by clicking the links on the page you get the details which anyone that crosses an ocean might be interested in understanding since several container ships have lost containers overboard and become a hazard to navigation, especially someone sailing along on a fiberglass vessel. The containers float just beneath the surface, sometimes with just a corner sticking up but invisible to a vessel on a collision path. The Panama Canal will finish the expansion to allow Super Ships through that can carry 14,500 containers. These are the ones that come into Seattle now because they cannot fit through the Panama Canal. All the Gulf of Mexico and East Coast ports are anticipating the new larger container ships into their ports once the expansion is completed in 2015. So Seattle and the State of Washington is in a mad rush to upgrade the road and train systems that carry the containers across the nation so they can handle the new Ultra Large Container ships that will carry 20,000 containers but will not fit through the new Panama canal. The Port can off load 15,000 containers and send the ship back for more in less than 2 days. The current large container ships are just over 300 meters or 984 feet in length.

Bulk Cargo Grain Ships and the Grain Silo

These ships all look like the same builder built them, almost all of them are 225 meters or 738 feet long that dock at Terminal 86 Grain Facility These ships can load 91,717 Metric Tons of Grain which is 101,100 short tons, a short ton = 2000 pounds.

Just to compare how much grain a ship like this can carry a 60' in length train box car can hold up to 143 tons fully loaded so the ship can hold the equivalent of 707 box cars, imagine a train 707 cars long. A Semi truck Depending on the size of the trailer and the commodity,1000 to *1200 bushels or 60 to 70 thousand lbs is a good average so the ship can carry the equivalent of about 2,799 semi truck loads of grain, think about that Highway! Based on 50 pounds per bushel of grain it would take around 58,000 acres to produce the grain for one of these ships, take that to the Bank! The United States is truly the world’s bread Basket .Shortly after we arrived here in August these ships started rolling in and have been nonstop for the last 4 months. It takes about 6 days to load a ship and send it on it’s way. There are always 1-4 ships anchored just off a few hundred yards waiting their turn at the single berth. Trains pour in from all over the mid-west to Seattle and off load at the grain silo. Wheat, corn, and who knows what other grains? All the figures above are subject to the type of grain/weight and the actual yield per acre of any given year but I think you get the picture, these are huge ships and we sell incredible amounts of grain to the world. I am guessing we have seen about 21 ships come and go from the Port of Seattle Terminal 86 and this is just one of several such terminals on the west coast.

I plan to find a way to travel up the Duwamish by boat in the near future so I will post that one when it gets done.

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