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Port of Tacoma saw huge increase in container business last month

Post by John Gillie / The News Tribune on March 21, 2013 at 3:55 pm with No Comments »
March 21, 2013 3:57 pm

The Port of Tacoma’s principal business, container shipments, rose by nearly 50 percent in February this year, new statistics from the port show.

But not all of that business boom is likely to be repeated throughout the year, said port officials.

That’s because Asian manufacturers increased exports before the mid-February Lunar New Year holiday to compensate for plant shutdowns during the holiday celebrations. Shipments rose by 46.8 percent.

But those numbers also reflect also the arrival of the Grand Alliance shipping consortium in Tacoma from Seattle.  The alliance moved its Puget Sound base of operations from Seattle to Tacoma last July.

The four members of the consortium have more typically added about 25 percent to Tacoma’s container shipping volume since they arrived here.  Those shipping lines are NYK Lines of Japan, OOCL of Hong Kong, Hapag Lloyd of Germany and Zim of Israel.

While foreign containerized shipments rose steeply last month, domestic container shipments, mostly shipments to Alaska rose by 6.5 percent, port statistics show.

Log volumes also showed a big increase (74 percent) as the Chinese market for lumber showed signs of reviving.  The log business is one that the port had abandoned years ago. But the port revived that trade in a move to diversify its business when the containerized trade fell beginning in 2007.

Breakbulk cargoes, those too large or oddly shaped to fit inside containers, were off 17.5 percent through February after a long streak of increases.  The port said it expects that business will continue to be robust, however,  as the demand for construction and agricultural equipment remains vigorous.

Down too was the grain trade as the drought in the Midwest took its toll on exports.  Grain shipments were off 26.4 percent through 2013’s second month.

Automobile imports were on the plus side of the ledger with an 18.1 percent increase  26,040 vehicles as auto sales nationwide showed positive trends.

The Grand Alliance’s shift was also reflected in the total number of vessel calls.  The port saw 196 ships call through February versus 155 through the same time last year.  That’s a 26.5 percent increase.



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