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Port of Tacoma
4716'48"N 12225'00"W

Ready Reserve Force, or RRF, ships help to offset the shortage of militarily useful US -flagged ships. RRF ships are maintained in four-, five-, 10- or 20-day readiness status by the US Department of Transportation's Maritime Administration. When activated, these ships are under the operational control of Military Sealift Command. Ships with four- or five-day readiness status are berthed at ports throughout the United States allowing them to remain close to potential military load-out sites.

Two large pre-positioned MSC ships are assigned to Tacoma and are anchored in Commencement Bay. The ships have 106 ft (32.3 m) beams, and are kept clear of the waterways so as not to adversely impact maritime traffic. Army reservists are the primary military users of the Port of Tacoma, but an occasional US Navy ship visits the port during civic celebrations.

The Port of Tacoma is located at the southeast end of Commencement Bay. The port is comprised of several waterways. The one of interest to this evaluation is the Blair Waterway. The Pierce County Terminal, at the head of Blair Waterway, is used by Military Sealift Command (MSC) ships. The terminal has two berths with a total of 1,420 ft of berthing space. Dock height is 22 ft. Alongside depth is 45 ft. The 11th street bridge crosses the Blair Waterway approximately 1,500 yd southwest of its mouth. The usable channel width under the bridge is 150 ft. A designated anchorage area is charted in Commencement Bay approximately 1,600 yd (1,463 m) northwest of the mouth of the Blair Waterway. Charted depths range from 59 ft (18 m) to over 250 ft (76 m). The bottom of the anchorage is mostly mud.

The Port of Tacoma is located between elevations exceeding 200 ft (61 m) northeast and southwest of the port. The area south and southeast of the port is mostly low-lying, providing a channel for southerly winds to reach the port. Winds, although strong at times during winter, do not pose a significant problem to ships properly moored alongside piers at the Port of Tacoma. The strongest winds are south to southwesterly, occurring in pre-frontal conditions as transient low pressure systems approach the coast of Washington. Strong north or northeast winds are uncommon.

The location of the Port of Tacoma at the south end of Puget Sound precludes any significant effect of wave motion at the port in general, and specifically at the head of Blair Waterway where Military Sealift Command ships usually moor. Ships arriving at or departing from the Port of Tacoma will have to traverse the more exposed waters of Puget Sound and Commencement Bay. Prevailing currents at the Port of Tacoma and in Commencement Bay are weak and variable. The Puyallup River passes through the port via the Puyallup Waterway. It creates a weak northwesterly-setting current near the mouth of the Waterway, but the current is largely diffused in the expanse of Commencement Bay. The river outflow increases and creates stronger current flow during periods of heavy precipitation and/or snow melt in the Puyallup River watershed.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:57:15 ZULU