SEATTLE - A glimpse of the future of the marine cargo business came in February, when the Benjamin Franklin arrived in Elliott Bay.
The largest cargo ship ever in Puget Sound called at Terminal 18 on Harbor Island, which can hold two mega ships.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance wants to be able to dock two more at Terminal 5.
On Monday, the Port of Seattle released a draft environmental impact statement for the modernization project, and opened about a month's worth of public comment.
"We have to be ... at the top of our game if we hope that the Puget Sound will continue to be a competitive gateway," said John Creighton, NWSA co-chair and Port of Seattle Commission president.
Creighton said modernizing Terminal 5, at a cost of roughly $200 million, is crucial to keep up with an industry trending toward fewer, bigger ships.
"It's a constant arms race in the industry," Creighton said.
The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma now collaborate, as Puget Sound ports face increasing competition from Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and even the East Coast, as a wider Panama Canal means bigger ships will be able to go there directly.
The port proposes dredging by Terminal 5, strengthening the pier and upgrading the power to handle larger cranes.
The port does not yet have a contract with a company to run the terminal.
"It is a bit of a gamble," said Jordan Royer, who represents terminal operators and shippers for the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.
But Royer said the investment is critical.
"One thing is guaranteed: If you don't make it big ship ready, you won't get any big ships," Royer said.
In Tacoma, Husky Terminal is approved for big-ship expansion and is expected to be ready in 2018.
Public hearings on renovating Terminal 5 are planned June 7 in Georgetown and June 9 in West Seattle.
Some neighbors in West Seattle have raised concerns about noise and air pollution.
Details of the public hearings are below:
Tuesday, June 7
5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Georgetown Campus, South Seattle College
6737 Corson Ave. So., Seattle
Thursday, June 9
5:30 to 8:30 p.m.
Alki Masonic Center
4736 40th Ave. SW, Seattle
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