In April the port suspended its planning for the terminal, citing a need to better understand the short- and long-term cruise industry market impacts from COVID-19 before investing in additional cruise facilities.
Focus on cruise safety for the 2021 season
‘Our current focus remains on public health,’ said Port of Seattle Executive Director Steve Metruck. ‘We continue to work with public health partners and cruise stakeholders to determine the enhanced procedures that will make our cruise passenger terminals and facilities safe for the community, passengers and crew in 2021.’
Metruck added: ‘The last two decades of growth indicate that there is durable demand for Seattle cruises. When we can, we will convert that demand into more business opportunities and jobs for our region.’
The estimated $200m facility would entail a $100m investment from the port and the balance from a partner.
Entities that had been shortlisted were Cruise Industry Leaders Group (Royal Caribbean Group, MSC Cruises, Carnival Corp. and SSA Marine, a subsidiary of Carrix), Global Ports Holding and Civil & Building North America, and Ports America with Jacobs Engineering Group.
2020 had been forecast as a record cruise season
Cruising has become an integral leading business line for the port and an important part of the region’s maritime and regional economies. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle was forecasting a record 2020 with 233 cruise calls. This would have entailed an estimated 1.3m revenue passengers.
According to the port, cruising supports 5,500 jobs and provides nearly $900m in economic activity for the region.
On the environmental front, the expansion plans had faced some scrutiny during public scoping meetings, which led to additional environmental elements being added to the RFP.
Seattle is the only North American homeport with a voluntary clean water agreement with cruise lines and state regulators. On the shore side, more than 80% of the cargo-handling equipment at the cruise terminals is powered by clean fuel technology. An early adopter of clean electric shore power for ships at berth, the port provides hookups at two cruise berths at Terminal 91. Through its clean waterfront electrification strategy, the port is committed to expanding clean energy to more terminals throughout the harbor.
Alaska market had been booming
Prior analysis of the cruise market and ship deployment supported the need for a fourth berth to meet the strong demand for Alaska cruises.
A homeport facility requires a deep-water berth, a building to process passengers, a ground transportation area, long-term parking for passengers, associated utilities and connection to the local transportation system.
The port said it and the Northwest Seaport Alliance, which manages Terminal 46, will continue with prior projects to make the facility more sustainable and durable for long-term general maritime use, including installing stormwater treatment infrastructure and rehabilitating the dock. Vessel berthing and maritime support will continue on the terminal.
The port added it will prepare a recommendation for the cruise terminal project when there is greater certainty about cruise demand.