As the port of seattle struggles to fulfill its mission to serve the taxpayers of King County by promoting maritime commerce, the Mayor of Seattle is fighting to prohibit maritime commerce at the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5.
A recent contract between Foss Maritime and Shell Oil Company caught the attention of Greenpeace (see Useful Idiots, Pacific Maritime Magazine, May 2015), who sent activists to disrupt cargo movement at the port. These activists found a willing ally in Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, who waded into the fray at the urging of Greenpeace, and contrary to the best interests of the city he manages and the port’s clients. “If it was up to me, there would be no place for arctic offshore oil drilling equipment in Seattle,” he said.
Shell needs a facility to store and maintain rigs and other equipment as it resumes exploration and drilling this summer in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. The port of seattle has a vacant piece of land at Terminal 5, which is currently undergoing renovation.
Under a two-year lease signed in February with the port of seattle, Foss Maritime was given the right to short-term moorage and vessel operations at 50 acres of the 156-acre terminal for the layberthing of Shell’s arctic drilling fleet.
At the Mayor’s instruction, the Seattle Department of Planning and Development presented the port with a demand for an additional use permit they claim to be required for the proposed seasonal moorage of the rig and accompanying tugboats. The mayor and Department of Planning director Diane Sugimura have made it clear that such a permit will not be granted.
The mayor said that in order to “prevent the full force of climate change,” the Port should “focus on the economy of the future: electric cars and transit, green homes and environmentally progressive businesses.”
The week following his actions to stop maritime commerce at Terminal 5, Murray claimed to be supportive of the Maritime industry: “I think we’ve shown we can bring jobs into this city, and we’ve worked with a hundred maritime companies in Seattle just in the last year,” he said in a televised interview on the local news. “There are 3,000 more maritime jobs since I’ve been mayor.”
At press time, City Hall was unable to determine where the Mayor gets his information, but according to data from the US Department of Labor, the number of maritime jobs in the Seattle area may have actually gone down during his tenure, perhaps by as many as 1,400 jobs.
Foss Maritime, in a statement released to respond to the action by the City, said the Mayor’s action raises grave concerns about his stated commitment to Seattle’s thriving maritime community. “By giving a small but vocal group the ability to jeopardize the commercial relationships between our local maritime businesses and the port of seattle, the Mayor is casting serious doubt on the future of the city’s working waterfront.”
“We want to build the maritime industry,” Mayor Murray says, “but we think we can build it on the economy of the future, not an economy that really is going to have to dramatically change.”
We wonder how the rest of the world’s maritime industry will respond to the Mayor of a seaport town who doesn’t want maritime companies moving cargo on his waterfront.
We wonder how the Port of Tacoma – being courted as Seattle’s Seaport Alliance partner – will react to a marriage with a seaport that has such a Mayor as a neighbor.