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Ports SouthWest Harbor Project in Seattle

Seattle terminal minimizes light trespass, ensures safety and energy efficiency with Holophane High Mast System

Like many port facilities located in a scenic setting like the shoreline of the inland waters of the Pacific Ocean, Terminal 5, part of the Southwest Harbor Project in Seattle, borders a residential community.

Because of the proximity of private homes, when the terminal recently expanded its intermodal yard area and retrofit an existing lighting system, light spillover was a major concern. Another priority was to boost illumination levels to a uniform minimum 5 footcandles (the level required by the state of Washington for marine lighting) to promote safety for longshoremen.

The 75-acre expansion of the current 83-acre terminal extends along the Duwamish waterway about 4,000 feet to the 1,700-foot-deep property that was created from an old landfill, a superfund site and other contaminated properties. Houses in the adjoining community start at the bottom of the hill beyond where the terminal is located and reach nearly 300 feet up the slope that overlooks the facility.

"Some of the homes are directly in line with the terminal's lighting fixtures," described George England, Southwest Harbor Construction Manager. "Because the fixtures are lighted 24 hours a day when a ship is in port, we wanted to achieve very uniform illumination levels, which would enable us to reduce the overall footcandles. Lighting provided by the previous lighting system was erratic and resulted in very bright spots and dark areas. Illumination levels ranged from three to 16 footcandles."

Longshoremen safety is particularly a concern because the port uses a top pick, a large forklift that picks up containers from the top, to move cargo. Visibility for drivers is poor not only because of the size of the equipment, but because of the height at which the driver is seated.

Fixtures selected for both the retrofit and the expansion are Holophane HMST® high mast units with 1000-watt high pressure sodium lamps. The fixtures have symmetric and asymmetric distribution to minimize light trespass. Units in the yard area are mounted on 100-foot poles, with 12 fixtures per pole. Along the wharf, poles are 86 feet high and have eight fixtures each.

The difference in pole height is due to the back reach of the crane used on the wharf. When the crane lifts a container, its extended arm hangs over the area where the light poles are located. Because the crane has lights of its own, the terminal was able to use fewer fixtures on the poles in the wharf area. Also, the poles have water on one side, so there was no reason to illuminate this area.

The 100-foot poles in the intermodal yard area are spaced 400 feet. The distance between the last row of 100-foot poles and the shorter poles on the wharf is 250 feet. New poles were erected in the yard area, while existing poles were taken down and new electrical boxes installed to bring the units up to code.

"The Holophane high mast system has provided us with a nice compromise," England said. "The yard and wharf areas have the uniform light levels needed to help ensure longshoremen safety and meet state codes. Yet, because of the distribution pattern provided by the high mast fixtures, the light does not intrude into the neighboring community. The system has also reduced energy consumption, which is a major cost for the tenant."

Since the retrofit, energy costs for yard lighting have dropped about 40 percent. Previously the tenant was paying approximately $20,000 per month for electricity, including crane operation.

Lighting fixtures are controlled by a PC-based system that allows the tenant the flexibility to illuminate all of the units at one time, or only two fixtures per pole for security.


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