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Port of Seattle decision to delay $100M cruise terminal welcomed by some

Proposed site of the Terminal 46 cruise development (PHOTO: Port of Seattle)

PortandTermiinal.com, April 30, 2020

SEATTLE, WA – Ports across the country are starting to announce extraordinary cost-cutting measures as they adjust to the impact the COVID-19 crisis is having on their finances.

The Seattle Times is reporting that port commissioners in Seattle have cut nearly $70 million from the Port’s 2020 budget. Some of the savings were realized by postponing the controversial $100 million redevelopment of a downtown pier into a cruise terminal.

The Port of Seattle Commission took these initial steps Tuesday to scale down spending through the rest of 2020 while backing measures to protect laid-off workers and small businesses at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

READ: Port of Seattle gives Sea-Tac Airport and marina tenants COVID19 rent relief

The news of the cruise terminal delay will be welcomed by some. In November, protestors demonstrated to express their concern over how the cruise terminal expansion proposal would impact local air quality and water quality, and contribute to global climate change. 

READ: Activists protest Seattle cruise terminal expansion: Call Carnival Cruise “Criminals”

At the time, the protestors were also highly critical of Carnival Cruise Lines expressing serious concern about the company’s “seven felony convictions for illegally dumping oily waste into the ocean for years and falsifying records to cover it up”.

Protestors. One in polar bear costume.
Activists protest Seattle cruise terminal expansion: Call Carnival Cruise “Criminals” (November 7, 2019)

Commissioners conceded Tuesday, that it makes little economic sense to continue plans to redevelop part of Terminal 46 near Pioneer Square into the city’s fourth cruise ship berth. The project has drawn opposition from climate activists because it builds capacity for a new source of climate-changing emissions.

RELATED: The Port of Galveston says cruises are probably done for the year

Climate activists at Tuesday’s meeting, some drawing parallels between the lack of action on climate change and the federal government’s reluctance to heed expert advice on coronavirus response, once again asked the commission to cancel the project.

“One of the lessons we’ve learned from the coronavirus is that when scientists warn of a real emerging threat, it’s not good enough to wait until we see the impacts to start doing something about it,” said Neal Anderson, an activist with environmental nonprofit 350 Seattle.

It’s not clear when the Port will restart the Terminal 46 development, or the dozens of other aviation and maritime development projects it chose to delay Tuesday. Commissioners said they would reevaluate the decision as conditions changed. Together with an existing hiring freeze, the postponements will save the Port $70 million, Thomas said.

READ: Seattle cargo terminals close as coronavirus and trade war kills cargo

Those savings, combined with a $192 million federal relief package for Sea-Tac, still may not be enough for the Port to meet expenditures as the shutdown drags on. The Port is currently drawing on its rainy day fund to cover operations and maintenance, said corporate finance director Elizabeth Morrison.

Commissioners on Tuesday approved $150 million in “additional backup liquidity,” in the form of a short-term loan or revolving line of credit from JP Morgan Chase.

More federal stimulus funds are needed to shore up the Port’s revenues, Thomas said, as the economy continues to weaken.

“The consensus is that we are entering a severe economic downturn, possibly worse than the Great Recession,” Thomas said.

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