By Mark Edward Nero
The Northwest Seaport Alliance kicked off the first month of 2017 with a 17 percent growth in container cargo for January, according to newly released data.
The Seaport Alliance, which is a maritime operating partnership between the Seattle and Tacoma ports, said full import and export volumes were both especially strong last month compared with the same month the year before.
At 128,892 TEUs, full imports grew almost 19 percent compared to January 2016, according to data.
Contributing factors to the increase, according to the Seaport Alliance, were fuller ships calling ahead of the Lunar New Year on Jan. 28, as well as retail stores restocking their inventory following a strong holiday retail season.
Traditionally, the factories in China ramp up production leading up to the Lunar New Year before they shut down for up to two weeks for the holiday. As a result, ocean carriers reduce the number of sailings to accommodate for the slowdown.
Full exports also recorded a strong month with 76,339 TEUs, a 17 percent increase. The total international TEU volumes grew nearly 18 percent in January.
But one month’s gain could mean another month’s loss.
“With China making up about 60 percent of our import volumes, we may see lower cargo volumes in February because fewer ships will reach our gateway,” the Alliance predicted in a statement.
Regarding domestic volumes – those between the Pacific Northwest ports and Alaska and Hawaii – in January were better than in January 2016, with Alaska volumes up more than 19 percent as a result of three additional sailings in January. Alaska volumes are expected to decline five to six percent this year due to soft market conditions.
Regarding other cargo, breakbulk was up 8.4 percent to 14,502 metric tons due to several military shipments through the South Harbor, Seaport Alliance data show, while auto units were up 4.3 percent to 12,613 units due to the release of a new model, as well as a resolution to labor/management issues in South Korea.
January 2017 container and cargo volumes for January 2017 can be found at https://www.nwseaportalliance.com/sites/default/files/seaport_alliance_full_mty_by_month_jan2017.pdf and https://www.nwseaportalliance.com/sites/default/files/seaport_alliance-5-year_history_jan_17.pdf, respectively.