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Tuesday, February 5, 1991 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tacoma Port Lures Big Shipper -- World's Largest Line Follows Others South

Tacoma has done it again.

The Port of Tacoma has lured away another customer from the Port of Seattle, this time the world's largest shipping line, Evergreen Marine Corp. of Taiwan.

Tacoma says it could take the lead as Puget Sound's largest container port by year's end.

After fierce lobbying by both sides, Evergreen told the ports yesterday it was moving to Tacoma to a vacant terminal, where $8 million in improvements are planned. Seattle's plan to spend $30 million at a shared terminal was not enough to keep Evergreen.

Both ports called the announcement good news for Puget Sound as a whole because Evergreen is remaining in the region. But longshoremen in Seattle were alarmed at Seattle's loss. Tacoma's first big catch was the Sea-Land Service, which left Seattle in 1985, followed by Maersk Line and ``K'' Line, two large ocean carriers.

Longshoremen worry that opposition by neighborhood groups to terminal expansion may have created the image that Seattle no longer wants a working waterfront.

``We are deeply disappointed that we continue to wave goodbye to major shipping lines,'' said a statement issued by Local 19 of the International Longshoremen's and Warehousemen's Union.

The move by Evergreen, which brings about 75,000 containers to Seattle each year, will not be as dramatic a blow as the loss of Sea-Land, which brought 400,000 containers. But some view Evergreen as positioning itself for explosive growth.

Seattle counted 1.1 million containers at the end of 1990, compared with 937,000 in Tacoma.

Evergreen's move from Terminal 18 in Seattle is scheduled for sometime this summer.

Zeger van Asch van Wijck, chief executive officer of the Seattle port, said the move will have no effect on the port's revenues. Evergreen used a terminal that Stevedoring Services of America leased from Seattle by , he said.

Van Asch van Wijck said he doubts Tacoma will overtake Seattle in container volume. Several large Seattle carriers, such as American President Lines, are increasing their cargo volumes, he said.

One Seattle official said last week that the loss of Evergreen would be a blow to Seattle's prestige. Van Asch van Wijck, however, said Evergreen's decision would not damage Seattle's reputation as a leader in world trade.

John McCarthy, president of the Port of Tacoma Commission, said Evergreen may put Tacoma ahead of Seattle in container volume, but he said his focus was not on counting boxes but on serving customers. A major shipping line now has capacity for big growth, he said.

``This will result in long-term regional gains. It's not anyone's loss,'' McCarthy said.

A spokesman for Evergreen did not return calls late yesterday. There was no immediate estimate of how many jobs would be generated in Tacoma.

Van Asch van Wijck traveled to Taipei, Taiwan, in his effort to convince Evergreen to stay. After yesterday's announcement, he has been unable to reach Evergreen President Kuo-hua Chang to learn why the company is moving.

John Terpstra, Tacoma's executive director, said he believed Evergreen was moving to get its own terminal that could be expanded from 35 acres to 48 acres. Also, Tacoma offered immediate access to a large nearby rail yard for carrying cargo. Seattle offered to add rail lines and expand Terminal 18 by 60 acres, to 105 acres.

Many waterfront observers say Tacoma has one big edge over Seattle: cheaper land. Tacoma can offer dedicated terminals at rates that Seattle officials say are below market. Tacoma replies that its rates are appropriate to the market and an acceptable return to Pierce County taxpayers.

Tacoma will charge Evergreen $45,000 per acre per year for its terminal. Terpstra said Seattle is charging about $50,000 to $60,000 per acre per year for its new leases, but he cautioned that terminal rates are only a piece of a terminal's complex financial package. Another item would be rates charged for container-cranes, for example, he said.

Terpstra said Tacoma will show a positive cash flow from Evergreen that will grow as cargo volumes increase. But he declined to detail the financial arrangements. ``This is not a subsidy arrangement,'' he said.

Published Correction Date: 02/06/91 - Maersk Lines Was Not A Port Of Seattle Tenant In 1985 When It Chose The Port Of Tacoma As Its Northwest Base. The Port Of Seattle Had Been Wooing Maersk After The Decision By A Major Seattle Tenant, Sea-Land Service, To Move To Tacoma. Maersk's Relationship To Seattle Was Misstated In This Article.

Copyright (c) 1991 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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