Plans to develop a new cruise terminal at the Port of Seattle have been derailed by the coronavirus pandemic. The port announced Tuesday it has called off a request for industry proposals for a joint investment to build and operate a proposed new cruise terminal to serve the Alaska market.
“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.”
Cruise has become an integral leading business line for the Port of Seattle and an important part of the region’s maritime and regional economies. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Port of Seattle was forecasting a record year for 2020 with 233 cruise vessels scheduled to sail from Seattle. With an estimated 1.3 million revenue passengers expected to travel to and from our terminals this season, cruise supports 5,500 jobs, and provides nearly $900 million in economic activity for the region.
Prior analysis of the cruise market and cruise ship deployment supported the need for a fourth berth to meet the demand for Port of Seattle cruise services. A cruise terminal requires a deep-water berth, a building to process passengers, a ground transportation area, long-term parking for cruise passengers, associated utilities, and connection to the local transportation system.
Then, in April 2020, the port suspended its planning for a new cruise terminal at Terminal 46, citing a need to better understand the short and long-term cruise industry market impacts from COVID-19 before continuing its project investment in additional cruise facilities.
Tuesdays announcement shelves the plans indefinitely, though the port said it will prepare a recommendation for the Cruise Terminal Project when there is greater certainty about demand for cruise services.
“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,” Metruck said.
Meanwhile, the Port of Seattle and Northwest Seaport Alliance plan to continue with prior projects to make Terminal 46 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.