Industry shifts promise change for Terminal 91; Port of Seattle to study possibility of cruise ships at pier in Smith Cove

Cargo vessels exporting Washington apples and importing Nissan vehicles will likely be replaced by cruise ships riding the Northwest's rising economic tide of ocean-based tourism.
Proof of such a shift comes in the March 1 announcement by the Port Commission to fund a study to explore the economic, social and environmental impacts of a second cruise-ship terminal in Seattle's Elliott Bay. In 1999 the Port of Seattle opened its first cruise-ship terminal at the Bell Street Pier, which is expected to reach its capacity by 2004. In October 2001, Port officials chose Terminal 91 from a list of six possible sites as the ideal location to expand the local cruise-ship industry.
According to Port Commission figures, the annual estimate of cruise passengers traveling from Seattle is swelling, from 7,000 in 1999 to a projected 250,000 in 2002 and 320,000 in 2003. Norwegian Cruise Line and Caribbean International are both using the Bell Street Pier facility as the homeport for their Northwestern fleets. Additionally, the Holland America Line has released plans to base a ship in Seattle for its Alaskan cruise routes. In all, Seattle's cruise lines saw 76 sailings in 2002, an increase of over 50 percent from the 36 sailings logged in 2000.
"This year, cruise-ship visits will generate $42.6 million in new business revenue and spending in the region," noted Port Commission Chairman Bob Edwards. "The industry also will generate $2.8 million in state and local taxes. It's clear the market for Pacific Northwest and Alaska cruises is growing, and it's worth examining the benefits that growth in the industry offers the region."
To this effect, the $520,000 Terminal 91 study is designed to analyze the financial feasibility of a second cruise port in Elliott Bay. The study will also provide for examining community outreach options accompanying such a plan, preliminary architectural designs and an initial SEPA determination. Additionally, the port commissioners will use the study to see how they can fulfill their commitments to fishing industry customers who are currently using Terminal 91.
"Seattle is gaining stature as a player in the cruise business, and I think the cruise lines agree," said the port's Chief Executive Officer M. R. Dinsmore. "They are putting their fastest, most technologically advanced vessels on Seattle-based cruises."

Keeping an eye open
However, while the Port Commission appears anxious to help the local economy grow by inviting the expansion of the cruise-ship industry, some Seattle citizens are just as anxious to see that such changes do not compromise their neighborhoods.
With Terminal 91's location on the flatlands between Queen Anne and Magnolia, the possible effects of the burgeoning cruise industry on the area has garnered the attention of the Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC). This volunteer group was formed in the early 1980s and serves as the Queen Anne and Magnolia communities' watchdog on the various shipping activities at Terminals 90 and 91, voicing concerns and making recommendations to the Port of Seattle.
According to NAC member and Magnolia resident Victor Barry, his group is mainly concerned with the potential negative impacts on the surrounding community of any increased noise, light pollution and traffic.
"We are concerned about what kind of facility they are going to build there for the cruise ships," said Barry. "What kind of lights? What kind of traffic would be involved? Are they going to have retail outlets down there?"
Despite his concerns, Barry noted it is too soon for his group to vote on an official recommendation to give the Port of Seattle, and they are waiting to hear more from the port's upcoming study.
"I think the jury is still out," stated Barry. "We're still forming an opinion on (the cruise lines), and we need to see more information from the port. Right now there is no official position by the NAC committee, the Queen Anne Community Council or the Magnolia Community Club on the cruise ship (issue). They're still gathering information."[[In-content Ad]]