Friday, March 21, 2014

Tacoma Container Volumes Down, Break Bulk Up

By Mark Edward Nero

Break bulk cargo and auto import volumes posted gains through February 2013 at the Port of Tacoma, but container volumes continued to lag.

Strong machinery and construction equipment imports propelled break bulk cargo volumes up 33 percent year to date to 32,304 short tons, according to data provided by the port. Auto imports moderated in February but are still up nearly 15 percent on the year to 29,878 units, boosted by the year-end surge in January from Korean automakers.

However, container volumes fell five percent year-to-date, dragged down by a 28 percent drop in international empty containers. Through the first two months of the year, shipping lines relied primarily on repositioning empty equipment domestically by rail, particularly during the Lunar New Year holiday when many factories in China closed for up to two weeks. The holiday fell on Jan. 31 this year. Full containerized imports improved one percent year to date to 115,283 TEUs, and exports remained flat at 81,490 TEUs. Domestic volumes declined nearly 10 percent in February as regularly scheduled vessel maintenance resulted in fewer sailings to Alaska.

For the calendar year to date, Tacoma has moved a total of 282,373 TEUs, a drop of about 5.3 percent from over 298,000 that shipped during the same two months in 2013. Of the 282,373 TEUs, 224,647 were foreign containers and 57,727 were domestic, which were drops of 4.1 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively, from the same two-month period last year.