How the Sinking of the Vessel “El Faro” Directly Affects Tacoma

sinkelfaroaffectstacomaWhile the nation and maritime industry are still searching for answers regarding the sinking of the vessel “El Faro”, the port of Tacoma and the local maritime industry have begun realizing the impact of this important ship. The El Faro was expected to make the trip from Jacksonville to Tacoma this winter. The ship was to service the Tacoma to Anchorage trade lane and relieve two Tacoma ships that were to have engine replacements and be transitioned to liquefied natural-gas (LNG) this winter and next.

To the Port of Tacoma, one of the most important factors of the multiple vessel conversions to LNG is the actual supply the LNG. In early 2016, Tacoma waterways was to see a 2,200 cubic meter (cbm) LNG barge call on our port. The plan was to service the two new LNG converted vessels, and others, in the Port of Tacoma. To add to the service offerings, Puget Sound Energy plans to build a $275 million LNG facility at the Port of Tacoma to provide supply for vessels at the port. The completion date of that facility is projected in 2018.

The additional benefits for the Port of Tacoma, along with a dedicated LNG supply for many uses, is the potential enticement of other large shipping lines joining the conversion trend and calling on Tacoma because of its access to LNG at the port. The supply can serve not only the PSE customers of Tacoma, but ships, rail and trucks as well. The benefits for all parties can grow exponentially.

For a facility of this scale to be built, and the success of the conversions to LNG, all partners have to rely on each other to meet deadlines and promises. The El Faro was a key element for TOTE Maritime Alaska to start the LNG Conversion process and jumpstart the LNG abilities of the Port of Tacoma. The News Tribune re- ports that the conversion will be delayed by a year, and El Faro’s sister ship, El Yunque, will replace the lost ship in the Tacoma trade during the other ships conversions. As many have begun to see, the lost ship and crew members have a greater impact on Tacoma than many would ever have imagined.

About El Faro:
Nearly a decade ago, El Faro was in service in the Alaska trade lane, and was called the Northern Lights. The ship was moved to the Puerto Rico trade lane in 2006, being renamed El Faro at that time. The ship was 790 feet long and had recently gone under inspection by the Coast Guard in March 2015, before the unfortunate sinking September 30th of this year.

It should be noted that Tacoma Club of Transportation expresses our deepest condolences and sympathy to the family and friends of the crew of the El Faro vessel during this difficult time.

This article was provided by Jake Nyman, Marketing Services Manager at American Fast Freight, on behalf of the Transportation Club of Tacoma Education Committee