Puget Sound Pilots members are called upon to navigate a wide variety of vessels, and they continually train in order to ensure they have the skills to handle new vessels and evolving technology.
Over the last 30 years, ships have grown in size and complexity as shipping companies seek to reduce transportation costs. For example, in 1975 the container ships commissioned by Evergreen Shipping held 646 twenty-foot containers called TEUs. Today, some of the ships calling in Tacoma are 1,150 feet long and carry more than 8,500 TEUs.
Within the next ten years, Puget Sound ports could host mammoth container ships ¼ mile long.
Even larger ships are on the drawing board, and experts predict that within the next ten years, Puget Sound ports could host mammoth container ships ¼ mile long, capable of carrying 15,000 20-foot containers – cargo that laid end-to-end would stretch 56 miles.
Larger ships are more difficult to maneuver and stop, and their greater width, combined with the necessity for longer booms on the cranes that load and unload them, mean that the shipping channels near the berths have increasingly less room for error. With the prospect of container ships that carry more than 20 times more cargo than they did 30 years ago, the ship-handling skills and expertise of marine pilots have become even more critical to ensuring the safe transit of vessels through Puget Sound and adjacent waterways.
As part of an effort to enhance marine safety, the pilot training program is being augmented to ensure that our pilots can safely navigate these mega-ships through Puget Sound waters. At the same time, we continue to work with port districts during the design process to ensure that ports can safely host larger ships in the future