The Port of Tacoma could spend a total of $68 million in the first two years of the 21st century to develop its planned Pierce County Terminal, which is being designed to handle the super-size cargo ships that already have begun plying the seas.

“That’s the most expensive scenario,” says Port spokesman Mick Shultz. “That’s what we would spend if we not only built the terminal but also outfitted it with everything from the front door to cargo carrier cranes that run as much as $7 million apiece.”

Most tenants prefer to buy equipment such as the cranes, whose maintenance they can control and which they can take with them if they choose to relocate, Shultz says.

The Port believes the Terminal is an excellent candidate for ocean container carriers looking for a deep-water berth, easily accessible intermodal transportation and expansion capabilities.

This fall and into the spring, the Port and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will be dredging Blair Waterway to a depth of 51 feet, deep enough to accommodate even the world’s largest container ships.

On the drawing boards is a Pierce County Terminal Intermodal Yard that would make it the Port’s most immediate access to the Tacoma Rail sorting and classification yard.

The proposed Terminal itself is scheduled to occupy 60 acres, with the prospect of expanding to 100 acres in the near future and eventually up to 200 acres.

The initial phase of the project also would include upgrading an existing 1,420-foot concrete pier to accommodate a 100-foot-gauge container crane rail, extension of the existing pier by 780 feet, construction of an additional 1,200-foot pier, construction of an upland container yard and associated terminal facilities.

The Port Commission has authorized expenditure of up to $425,000 for preliminary design and permitting for the Pierce County Terminal and expects the work to be completed within 18 months.

The Port’s Foreign-Trade Zone (FTZ), meanwhile, has grown to become the ninth largest in the the nation in terms of dollar volume.

The most recent report from the U.S. Department of Commerce states that the Port of Tacoma FTZ processed $360 million worth of goods in 1997. There are 217 U.S. FTZs for which figures were reported in that year, says Schulz.

The Tacoma FTZ was established with 15 acres in 1982, and two years later expanded to 654 acres. Dollar values have been increasing steadily ever since.

In 1986, the FTZ grew to 916 acres, but four years alter, 123 acres were transferred to the Puyallup Tribe as part of an Indian Land Claim Settlement.

In January, the Foreign-Trade Zones Board authorized deletion of several acres that had been put to non-FTZ use but added 20 acres of privately-owned property and 60 acres of Port-owned land in Frederickson.

The Port also has a subzone in Anacortes, which is the site of a Texaco Refining Plant. The Port has granted a request from Tesoro Petroleum Corp. to have its plant at Anacortes incorporated into the subzone. That plant processes crude oil, both domestic and foreign, into products such as heating oil, motor oils and lubricants for shipment overseas.

The Port Commission, meanwhile, has forwarded an application to the Foreign Trade Zones Board to expand Tacoma FTZ. That plan would nearly triple the size of the Port’s FTZ, increasing by 1,581.45 acres, from its current total of 749.5 acres to 2,331 acres.

Additions to the FTZ would include Port property in Tacoma as well as Frederickson, property owned by The Boeing Col and J.R.&F. Randles in Frederickson, Valley South Corporate Park in Sumner and the nearby Greenwater Corporate Park, Fife’s Transpacific Industrial park, Rainier Corporate Park EAst and Fife Business Park, Lakewood Industrial Park, the Park in Puyallup and South Prairie’s Cascadia Employment-Based Planned Community.

The FTZ classification would be for five years but could be extended by mutual consent. It will take more than a year to learn if additions to the FTZ are approved.

In other recent action at the Port:

A call for bids for landscaping along the Blair-Sitcum Peninsula at an estimated cost of $283,000. Bids were received earlier this year but were rejected when they exceeded the anticipated cost for the project.

The Port did, however, award a contract for security controls, which are expected to cost about $274,000.

The landscaping and security precautions came about as a result of a determination by the Coast Guard that existing controls over access to the Peninsula do not comply with federal requirements.

A $613,000 project has been authorized that will provide long-term soil stabilization and beautify Port property in Frederickson that recently was logged to remove diseased timber. The salvaged timber grossed the Port $1.24 million.

By George Pica, Business Examiner staff