“It’s a nuisance”: container ships anchored in Puget Sound cause headaches for neighbors


Full ports all along the west coast are forcing ships to drop anchor in places they normally wouldn’t, and this upsets some residents of neighboring islands.

FREELAND, Washington – The view from Robin Charlwood’s home on Whidbey Island is usually filled with water and wildlife. Now the landscape is what some call an artificial monstrosity.

“We see these ships and we’ve never seen them so close before,” said Charlwood. Three huge container ships – up to four football fields long each – are moored aimlessly off the Whidbey Island property of Charlwood.

“We get the noise, the nagging noise at night. Some people higher up, if the wind is good, they hear it at night. There are fumes too,” Charlwood said. “I understand the problem, but it’s a nuisance.”

Three boats are anchored at Holmes Harbor, nestled between the Whidbey and Camano Islands. About five others are seated in Yukon Harbor, near Blake Island. They are among about fifteen ships currently anchored in Puget Sound due to a huge backlog of container ships along the west coast.

Ports from LA to British Columbia are at full capacity due to an increase in the supply chain that sends goods from Asia to America as the coronavirus loosens its grip on our economies.

Unspecified rail problems in the Midwest are partly to blame for the full ports of Seattle and Tacoma. The longshoremen have nowhere to load the containers once they arrive.

“Without the rail cars, there is no room for unloading containers from terminals here in Seattle and Tacoma,” said Laird Hail, director of Puget Sound vessel traffic for the US Coast Guard. “The terminals are full of containers and they have no room for the containers going out of the ships. As long as the ships cannot unload their containers, they cannot leave, so the ships coming from the sea have no no berth. “

Neighbors on the islands are concerned about the lights and noise of ships for people and marine life. Coast Guard officials say they are doing their best to make sure the ships are good neighbors.

“If we get reports from the residents, we will go to the agent or the ship and ask them to comply,” Hail said, adding that “we have no legal authority to enforce anything.”

Anyone who feels that ships generate excessive noise or light can call (206) 217-6152.

When asked if people should be concerned about potentially dangerous cargoes on ships, Hail replied, “Not at all. Hazardous materials are a very broad category and there is little cause for concern.

In addition to the 15 ships now anchored in the strait, even more are expected in the coming days.

The length of their stay depends on the supply chain.

“We can’t really predict when they’ll be leaving,” Hail said. “Your guess is as good as ours.”

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