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Port Olympia to take another run at bringing large ship to marine terminal

By Rolf Boone, The Olympian
Published: May 15, 2023, 7:42am

OLYMPIA — The Port of Olympia is again in talks to bring a large ship to the area that would tie up at the marine terminal and do little else.

It’s called a layberth agreement and it’s one of the items set to be discussed at Monday afternoon’s port commission work session.

Under consideration is an agreement in which the container ship “Maunalei,” which measures 680 feet, would tie up at the port for about six months. The ship is operated by the company Matson, which ships goods to Alaska and Hawaii, according to port agenda materials.

However, in this situation the Maunalei would simply be on hand as part of an emergency reserve ship for the Alaska fleet. That means it would be “cold-stacked” and have no crew, no on-board operations and carry little fuel.

“The vessel will have regular maintenance visits from the Matson port team. The vessel will need shore-power during this stay. The Port intends to install the infrastructure for this service,” the agenda reads.

Why strike such an agreement? Because over the six-month period it’s expected to generate $1.2 million in revenue. The port estimates it will have to spend $250,000 on the shore-power infrastructure.

The only question left for the port is: Can they do it?

The port has twice before been on the verge of securing layberth agreements, but both deals fell apart just as quickly as they were announced.

In April 2021, the port tried to bring the Maunalei to the area, but after the commission voted in favor of the deal on April 12, it was scuttled days later.

“While we are disappointed, this turn of events is not shocking given the volatility in the market right now,” Executive Director Sam Gibboney said in a news release at the time. “The international shipping market can change in a matter of days or even hours, and we are still in uncertain times and must be prepared for surprises.”

A plan to bring two, 600-foot ships also fell apart in February 2021.

“These vessels may be staying in California rather than coming to the Port of Olympia,” Executive Director Sam Gibboney told the port commission during a Monday meeting. “Through the contract approval process we were informed of an interpretation of logistical requirements for multiple vessels that would eliminate the Port of Olympia.”

The Monday work session starts at 2:30 p.m. If you go, the commission meets at Percival Plaza in the Olympics Room, 626 Columbia Street NW Olympia, WA 98501. The meeting also can be watched online via zoom.

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