The upgrades will allow the terminal to handle ships up to 18,000TEU in capacity. Credit: Port of Seattle.
The modernisation project will include berth deepening, dock strengthening and power upgrades. Credit: Dllu.
The ground-breaking ceremony of the Terminal 5 modernisation project was held in July 2019. Credit: Port of Seattle.

Terminal 5 of the Port of Seattle in the US is undergoing a major modernisation, which will transform it into a global container terminal.

Modernisation work will mainly include berth deepening, dock strengthening, and power upgrades to handle larger cranes.

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma, the managing members of The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA), approved the modernisation project in April 2019.

The ground-breaking ceremony of the project was held in July 2019. The first berth will begin its operations in 2021, followed by the second in 2023.

SSA Terminals signed a lease agreement to operate Terminal 5 upon completion of the first phase of construction.

Purpose of the terminal modernisation

Terminal 5 currently lacks the capacity to handle vessels with a capacity of more than 6,000 twenty foot-equivalent units (TEUs). The modernisation was suggested as shipping lines are inducting larger container ships.

Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 modernisation details

The Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 modernisation project primarily involves upgrades to handle ultra-large container ships with a maximum capacity of 18,000TEUs. It will also improve vessel berths and electrical systems to attract large ships and associated cargo shipments.

International cargo operations at the 185-acre terminal will be realigned to increase the efficiency of marine cargo activities across the Seattle harbour.

Water and air quality will be improved and a new primary substation will be installed to supply power to the new cranes and shore power to vessels.

A corridor between the Terminal 5 gate and the Duwamish River will be built to reduce the usage of locomotive horns.

The project will also involve the installation of broadband back-up alarms, gate queue management plan, and truck driver information system, as well as the implementation of an operations noise management plan.

A panelized fender system will replace the creosote-treated wooden piles, while new crane beams and rails will be installed as part of the project.

Construction of Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5

The in-water construction works, including in-water pile driving, are being carried out between August 2019 and February 2020.

“The Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 modernisation project primarily involves upgrades to handle ultra-large container ships with a maximum capacity of 18,000TEUs.”

Phase one construction began with the demolition of the northern side of the dock, installation of electrical infrastructure, and pile driving in July 2019.

Scheduled to commence in the first quarter of 2021, the second phase will include the delivery of new cranes, as well as the demolition and construction of the southern side of the dock.

The north and south berths will feature new crane rails, fendering, bollards and an underwater toe wall upon completion of the construction. Dredging of both the berths to a depth of 57ft will be carried out, once phase two is complete.


The project is estimated to involve an investment of $500m. The managing members of NWSA approved $340m financing for the project through construction funds. SSA Terminals funded $160m for the project.

Benefits of Terminal 5 modernisation

The Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 modernisation project is expected to create approximately 6,600 new direct jobs. It is anticipated to generate up to $2bn in business activity.

The modernised terminal 5 will enable the NWSA to handle containerised cargo of approximately seven million TEUs a year by 2050.

Dock upgrades will attract cargo shipments being transported to and from US destinations. The modernisation will also reduce environmental impact on the port.

Contractors involved

Port of Seattle awarded a $160m contract to Orion Group Holdings for the construction of the Terminal 5 improvements in May 2019.

Hart Crowser, an engineering consulting company based in the US, is responsible for providing geotechnical and seismic engineering services for the dock structure upgrades at the terminal.