Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Seattle Port Growth Down In November, Tacoma Up

The Port of Seattle continued to report increased year-over-year cargo volumes in November, while across Puget Sound the Port of Tacoma turned in its second straight month of growth for the first time since June of 2008.

While the Port of Seattle reported its 11th straight monthly increases of 2010 in November when compared to the year-ago periods, the port's total box numbers were off 17.2 percent from the previous month. The port's November numbers fell to the same levels as those in April, indicating that the peak season that began at the port back in May is slowly, but steadily dropping off as the year ends.

For the month of November, the port handled a total of 169,953 TEUs, up 11.3 percent compared to November 2009. Port officials also reported handling 70,466 loaded import TEUs in November, a 9.9 percent increase over the same month last year. In another sign that volumes are slowing, the port reported handling 46,545 loaded export TEUs, a decline of 3.3 percent over the year-ago period.

Despite the slowing year-end volumes, the port is still on pace to easily shatter beginning-of-the-year predictions of cargo growth for the year. Most analysts and experts were predicting a moderate 5 percent growth at West Coast ports in 2010. Seattle moved a total of 1,975,813 TEUs in the first 11 months of the year, a 37.3 percent increase over the January to November period in 2009.

Across the sound, total container volumes at the Port of Tacoma in November were only nominally up over the month of October--by about 450 TEUs, or less than 0.4 percent. Tacoma has experienced dramatic ups and down from month to month since the start of the year, with no discernible pattern.

In November, Tacoma port officials report handling a total of 120,095 TEUs, a 1.9 percent increase over November 2009 and tying with August for the largest monthly percentage growth since June 2008. The port also handled a total of 38,950 loaded import TEUs, a 16 percent increase over the year-ago period, and a total of 31,857 loaded export TEUs, a 4.7 percent increase over November 2009.

Despite the positive gains in three of the last four months, Tacoma is still on track to end the year down about 7 percent. However, this represents a significant improvement over 2009 when the port was down for the calendar year by 16.9 percent compared to 2008. Tacoma has not had a statistically significant positive year since 2005 (the port actually gained 0.038 percent in 2006, but reported the year as 0.0 percent growth).

Economic forecasters from the University of Puget Sound said last week that Tacoma would end the calendar year up 7.1 percent and could expect to see 4.4 percent growth in total container volumes in 2011.