Plans to extend electrification all along the Seattle waterfront are progressing, with shore power construction underway at the city’s cruise ship terminal, Port of Seattle Commissioner Hamdi Mohamed said Thursday.

Improvements to berths 6 and 8 at Terminal 91 to accommodate fishing and commercial vessels  “will also have shore power. We’re making a major investment on that side,” Mohamed said at the annual Kings County Maritime Economic Forecast breakfast during the Pacific Marine Expo.

Providing shore power to berthed vessels -  eliminating the need to run onboard generators, and the resulting air pollution affecting nearby neighborhoods - is a growing demand on port operators, from residents of Red Hook in Brooklyn, N.Y., to the San Francisco Bay area.

For Seattle, electrification is part of a broader future, said Mohamed.

“Transitioning vessels away from fossil fuels is the biggest transition we face,” she said.

The goal of reducing air polluting carbon emissions from maritime transport is driving many projects, such as the Washington State Ferries’ $150 million contract with Vigor shipyard to convert three Jumbo Mark-II class ferries to hybrid electric power. 

But Mohamed cautioned “we know electrification won’t work” for every application. Moreover, “solutions like electrification will require more energy than we have now.” 

In the past decade, the Seattle region has demonstrated how to grow the maritime industry in ways that address climate change and environmental protection, said Joshua Berger, founder and CEO of Washington Maritime Blue, a nonprofit working as an “accelerator” for maritime startups, with 56 ventures supported so far.

 One of its partnerships with the Port of Seattle is the Maritime Innovation Center at the Fishermen’s Terminal in Seattle, originally built in 1911. When complete, the project will yield “the greenest building in the world,” said Berger.   

A 2021 planning map shows the Port of Seattle's blueprint for electrifying its waterfront. Some projects such as the cruise ship terminal shore power are already well underway, said port Commissioner Hami Mohamed. Port of Seattle graphic.


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Associate Editor Kirk Moore was a reporter for the Asbury Park Press for more than 30 years and a 25-year field editor for National Fisherman before joining our Commercial Marine editorial staff in 2015. He wrote several award-winning stories on marine, environmental, coastal and military issues that helped drive federal and state government policy changes. Moore was awarded the Online News Association 2011 Knight Award for Public Service for the “Barnegat Bay Under Stress,” 2010 series that led to the New Jersey state government’s restoration plan. He lives in West Creek, N.J.

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