The Port of Seattle is using native oyster restoration techniques to enhance shoreline resilience and reduce ocean acidification
Port leadership is incredibly important, particularly as it relates to how homeports can positively influence and enhance the performance of others. The Port of Seattle believes effective leadership is not about just making demands. Our approach is to create trust in business partnerships through active collaboration and mutual performance expectations.
As a homeport, we work hard to make it convenient for cruise guests, through a welcoming city destination and providing great services from the airport to the cruise terminals. It is because of our consistently high guest satisfaction ratings, and our ongoing collaboration with cruise partners, that we’ve been able to aim beyond the minimum regulations in areas we prioritise, such as environmental sustainability.
The Port of Seattle aspires to be the greenest port in North America. It is in that spirit of leadership we created a green cruise road map by offering financial incentives, recognition and innovative technology. This led to the development of a voluntary clean water agreement in North America between the port, the cruise lines and our regulators – the only one of its kind in North America.
The Port of Seattle has also played a significant role in restarting cruise operations in North America during the pandemic. We set out our principles for resuming cruising in summer 2020 as we knew that being operational in 2021 was critical to the region’s economic recovery. We believed that, with our commitment to health and safety and the customer experience, we could play a leading role in restoring cruising to be better and more resilient than ever before.
To get there, we formed an internal taskforce to manage requirements, responsibilities and expectations among a broad list of stakeholders including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cruise lines, federal agencies, local health partners and community groups. Since Seattle was one of the first US ports to resume cruise, our Memorandum of Agreement and its legal framework became a model our cruise line partners could use to meet the requirements of CDC’s Framework for Conditional Sailing Order for other ports around the country.
Several of our partners have praised these efforts. In fact, Charlie Ball, executive vice president of land operations at Holland America Group, said: “The Port of Seattle teams were instrumental in connecting us to the relevant local agencies and officials who could help devise a safe cruise resumption for the community.”
We also worked with other ports to support them in their own resumption programmes. For example, we worked with our Alaskan port partners to address their concerns surrounding Covid-19, specifically that outbreaks could overwhelm their smaller communities and medical facilities. As a result, we helped our cruise line partners develop their vaccination requirements, onboard medical facilities and shore excursion activities.
While we celebrate the resumption of cruising, we continue to prioritise environmental sustainability. The port has long partnered with the Washington State Department of Ecology and the cruise industry in a unique voluntary agreement to prevent wastewater discharges into state waters. In 2020, we took it one step further and prohibited cruise ships from discharging exhaust gas cleaning system wash water at berth.
One of our most exciting actions this year, though, was the authorisation to expand clean electrical power to our third cruise berth in 2023. In 2005, the Port of Seattle was the first cruise homeport in the world to offer two cruise berths with shore power and an ever-increasing number of ships are plugging in. Since 2018, shore power use at the port has prevented the emission of over 6,200 tons of carbon dioxide. We are very proud that through our voluntary actions, 100 per cent of our cruise berths will be shore power capable from 2023.
In 2021, an updated Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy was also completed. For more than a decade, this regional, multi-port agreement has achieved significant results exceeding its emission reduction targets. The updated strategy establishes a new vision to get to zero emissions for seaport-related activities by 2050, while we have accelerated our own port-wide carbon reduction goals to reach net zero-emissions even sooner, by 2040.
In addition to these various energy and emissions targets, the Port of Seattle has an ambitious goal to restore, create or enhance 40 acres of habitat across port properties, building on the previous restoration of over 100 acres of fish and wildlife habitat. The port is advancing several pilot projects to enhance the Puget Sound ecosystem, including kelp conservation. At our Smith Cove Cruise Terminal site, we are testing the efficacy of kelp, eelgrass and native oyster restoration techniques, and measuring their ability to enhance resilience of our shorelines to the effects of ocean acidification.
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Stephanie Jones Stebbins is managing director of maritime at the Port of Seattle
This article was first published in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
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