Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Tacoma’s Cargo Surges; Seattle’s Drops

By Mark Edward Nero

Container volumes through the Port of Tacoma surged in September, posting a 20 percent gain over the same month last year, according to newly-released data. The port handled 225,890 TEUs last month, making it the busiest month since September 2005 when 216,430 TEUs were handled.

Last month’s strong volumes are expected to signal the end of the peak shipping period, when retailers increase inventories to prepare for the holiday shopping season. The statistics also reflect additional volume from larger vessels and shipping line alliances calling at Tacoma, according to the port.

For the calendar year, Tacoma handled 1.6 million TEUs through September, a 10 percent increase year to date. Also, full containerized imports grew 13 percent year to date to 590,418 TEUs, while exports improved 9 percent to 418,713 TEUs. Domestic volumes posted a four percent gain year to date to 355,766 TEUs.

Meanwhile at the Port of Seattle, there was a 23 percent drop in container volumes last month compared to September 2013.

Seattle saw about 109,000 TEUs last month, compared to more than 142,000 in September 2013. For the calendar year to date, volumes have dropped about 12 percent, falling from about 1.22 million through the first nine months of last year to just over one million during the same period in 2014.

Despite Tacoma’s recent growth in container volumes, the Puget Sound gateway continues to lose market share on the West Coast, mainly due to Seattle’s losses. On Oct. 7, the two ports announced that they had agreed to a special alliance which, pending review by the Federal Maritime Commission, could attract more cargo and grow jobs in the region by unifying the management of the marine cargo terminals at the ports.