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Port of Tacoma container traffic is reawakening

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on March 24, 2011 at 3:31 pm with No Comments »
March 24, 2011 3:34 pm

New figures from the Port of Tacoma show the port’s containerized shipping volume, which took a big hit in the last two years, has begun to revive.

February container numbers were up 15.4 percent over the same month in 2010, port statistics show. For the year, the volume is up 14.4 percent over 2010.

Container units handled at the port last year hit a low of 1,455,466 20-foot-equivalent units, a decline from 2009’s dismal 1,545,853 units. That compares with the port’s volume of 2,067,185 container units in 2006, the record year.

Container traffic, which was on a downturn through mid-2010, turned upward in August, then downward again in September last year. Since then, the numbers have built steadily.

The numbers are accelerating now. Traffic grew by just 1.5 percent in October last year and then 1.9 percent in November. December traffic was up 11.8 percent. January’s totals were larger by 13.3 percent, and February’s were up 15.4 percent.

Tacoma’s freshening container traffic mirrors a coast-wide trend. Other major West Coast ports have been seeing container traffic increase since mid-year 2010. Tacoma lagged that upturn by several months.

Meanwhile, other parts of the Port of Tacoma’s business are also looking better. Log export traffic, which was nil are recently as 2009, is up 229 percent for the first two months of 2011 compared with January and February in 2010.

Auto imports have seen healthy increases with numbers up 52.5 percent year-to-date at the port. In the first two months of 2010, the port handled 13,554 vehicles. That compares with 20,676 for those same months this year.

Other major indicators were on the incease at the port. Grain export tonnage rose by 2.9 percent for the year so far, and total tonnage was up 14.2 percent. Breakbulk volumes increased by 58.7 percent. Breakbulk cargoes are items that are too large or too oddly shaped to fit inside a standard shipping container.

Tara Mattina, the port’s spokeswoman, said the container volume comparisons are still somewhat distorted by the defection of one of the port’s largest containership lines, Maersk, to Seattle in May 2009. Maersk combined its Pacific Northwest operations with a French containership line CMA CGM which operated from the Port of Seattle

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