The Port of Seattle could soon see major growth, as the popularity of sailing from the area continues to increase.
The Port of Seattle Commission last week issued a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) for a private partner to develop a projected new cruise berth at Terminal 46. The selected cruise partner will be responsible for about half of the anticipated $200 million cost development cost.
Responses to the RFQ are due April 18. The port hopes to open the new single-berth cruise facility in time for the 2022 cruise season, adding more capacity to meet booming demand for Alaskan cruises from Seattle.
Benefits to Cruisers and Local Economy
Cruise ships using the Port of Seattle currently dock at Terminal 66 near downtown and Terminal 91 a few minutes north. The new development will convert about 30 acres of Pier 46 to welcome cruise visitors during the summer months.
The proposed development will bring increased business to Seattle’s SoDo (South of Downtown). The revitalized former industrial area already boasts CenturyLink Field, home to the city’s professional football and soccer teams, as well as many craft breweries.
A new light rail station is scheduled to open near Terminal 46 in the next few years, which would could mean easy travel between the new cruise terminal and SeaTac Airport. Port of Seattle Commission President Stephanie Bowman told Seattle’s KIRO7, “We are excited about the opportunity to work with Sound Transit and have (a) more seamless connection for passengers to perhaps take light rail to (the) airport and terminal.”
Meanwhile, Seattle’s King5 News reported that Port Commissioner Peter Steinbrueck estimates about 30% of all cruise ship traffic could dock at the new berth in the long term.
Steinbrueck stated that the new berth “will have the added advantages of being close to downtown businesses, restaurants, hotels where they can simply walk between the cruise terminal and those businesses downtown.”
Booming Growth Fuels a Need for Another Terminal
Why build a new terminal at all? Over the past two decades, the popularity of Alaskan cruises from Seattle has exploded. In 1999, only about 6,600 passengers — and six ship calls — cruised from the city. In 2019, the estimated number of passengers is to hit a record of more than 1.2 million, and more than 210 vessel calls.
In fact, Norwegian Cruise Lines is sailing its two newest ships — Norwegian Bliss and Norwegian Joy — from Seattle during the 2019 season. This sort of move was unheard of just a few years ago.
As the popularity of Alaskan cruising continues, the new Terminal 46 would help alleviate congestion and allow more ships to sail from the city.
One interesting note is the Request for Qualifications specifically mentions the new terminals be able to handle ships up to 250,000 gross tons. The only cruise ships anywhere near that are Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class vessels, perhaps indicating the port hopes to draw in these mega-ships with the new construction.