container shipping

Justin Steyer / KPLU

These days, Seattle’s Belltown neighborhood is dominated by wine bars and night clubs. But on one block of First Avenue, there’s a living reminder of the city’s dependence on the waterfront. Outside a two-story corner building, a few doors down from a Starbucks, is a vertical sign that reads "Catholic Seamen’s Club."  

These days, the place is known as the Catholic Seafarers’ Center and it’s run by the Archdiocese of Seattle. But for decades, the center has provided a lifeline to sailors, whether they’re here for just a few hours or months.

Chris Grygiel / Associated Press

Container volume is down more than 8 percent at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma in July, most likely a reflection of the weak economy. But the ports also face longer-term challenges.

Competition from Canadian ports is fierce. Then there’s the widening of the Panama Canal, set to be done in 2015, which some people say could divert ships away from the Pacific Northwest. And then there’s the Chinese economy to think about.