Hanjin deal is sign of economic pressures facing Port of Seattle

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by GARY CHITTIM / KING 5 News

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KING5.com

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 8:55 PM

SEATTLE -- In what sounded at first like a lopsided deal, the Port of Seattle announced Monday that international shipping company Hanjin will maintain operations at the port for the next 10 years in return for $4 million. In addition, the Port will sell five of its giant container cranes to Hanjin for a dollar each.

But Port officials defended the deal, saying it's a bargain given today's competitive international shipping market.

First of all, the Port said it is trying to get out of the crane business anyway, noting that two of the cranes they sold to Hanjin are old, problem-plagued and unable to serve the newer, larger class of cargoships.

And the Port said that by keeping Hanjin as a customer, thousands of jobs will stay in Seattle, jobs that will pay back the $4,000,000 in a few years in the form of economic growth and taxes for the region.

The Port of Seattle faces numerous pressures, including the widening and deepening of the Panama Canal. That project will allow the canal to accommodate the new super ships that have been forced to dock at West Coast ports. Soon, those boats will be able to sail through the canal direct to East Coast ports.

Closer to home, Canada's ports are offering lower rates and easier access to rail transportation.

The Port of Seattle also knows it can lose a customer in flash, as it did when a large consortium of shippers recently moved its business to Tacoma.

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