New figures from the Port of Tacoma show container trade at the Tideflats port is up in June for the third month in a row.
This upward trend in April, May and June has almost erased the downward drift in the first three months of the year. For the first half, container numbers at the port were off just .6 percent or 5,662 20-foot container units.
After a nearly seven percent drop in container volume last year, could this upswing portend a restoration of the port’s growth curve?
Port of Tacoma executive director Tim Farrell thinks several factors favor a renewal of that growth:
* Fuel costs. With fuel at record levels, some importers are shifting goods back to West Coast ports and bringing them cross country by train rather than pay the extra fuel costs of bringing containers to the East Coast by ship.
* Container surcharges in California. The nation’s largest container ports, Long Beach and Los Angeles along with the State of California are imposing infrastructure improvement, nightshift and pollution surcharges on containers moving through those ports. If all are imposed, they could amount to $250 per 40-foot container. Tacoma doesn’t impose those surcharges.
* Anticipation of freshened consumer demand. Farrell calls it the “Slinky effect” after the coiled steel kid’s toy. Consumers have cut back for months on purchases because of high fuel prices and sour economic conditions, but ultimately they’ll re-enter the marketplace to buy the items that they’ve postponed purchasing, and that will fuel a surge in demand.
Here’s a chart of the new container volume figures through the port in the first half of the year that I’ve drawn up: