This is a shot of the cargo container yard at the Port of Seattle, from behind the protective razor wire that surrounds miles of land off-limits to anyone but companies who use the port, employees, unions like Teamsters who run the unloading of goods, security teams, and those working on the ships and planes that come and go (2014).
Port authorities, as quasi-public entities, with minimal and almost no public oversight, amaze me with the scope of their power and the size of their land holdings. The Port of the Seattle is the largest property owner in the city. It runs an international airport and one of the country’s largest cargo container ports. Yet almost none of the city’s 600,000 or so residents have the slightest idea what happens behind the razor wire fences. Mainly all of those low-cost Asian-made goods come in, and some of our heavy materials, industrial goods, and agricultural goodies go out. I cannot fault any authority for maintaining security, but is this management structure more about protecting the interests of the large corporations that utilize these public resources for their business models or about keeping our commercial sector safe from “bad guys.” And have no doubt, bad guys do use this port to smuggle everything, from illegal drugs to people. They are like a big no-go zone that everyone agrees is good for all of us. That remains the weird part. Who decided all of this, and who benefits from all of this? (The port would say, I do, with cheap goods and a strong economy, I know.)
Seattle’s skyline is seen from the Port of Seattle, south of downtown (2014).
The Port of Seattle is the biggest landholder in Seattle, and it occupies miles of land along reclaimed tidal areas. This is a view looking toward downtown Seattle from the southern end of the cargo container port berths. (Click on the photo for a larger image on a separate picture page.)
About 70 percent of the U.S. economy is driven by consumer spending. That really means, because we shop, our economic boat stays afloat. But what does that mean outside of the discount and electronics goods shopping stores? It means large ports processing containers filled with goods manufactured in Asia for the North American and U.S. market. This particular Maersk Line cargo ship, the Axel Maersk, stacks containers eight high, and its control room stands even higher. Here are different angles on the Axel Maersk, unloading its cargo today at the Port of Seattle (April 26, 2014). The ship can reportedly carry up to 9,000 containers at one time. (Click on each photo to be taken to a separate photo page with a larger image.)
A couple of months back, I took a late afternoon photo outing to capture some industrial scenes in Seattle’s Interbay railyard and the always photogenic Elliott Bay and Puget Sound, adjacent to Seattle. More of this ongoing series can be found on my photo gallery.
BNSF Locomotives, Interbay Railyard
Pier 91 at Elliott Bay, Looking on to the Olympic Mountains
One of many grain ships filling its hull for the global market