New record set at Port of Tacoma

The first quarter after the holiday season is typically among the slowest time of the year for international cargo movement.

However, the Port of Tacoma’s North Intermodal Yard (NIM) is opening 2003 like it closed 2002 – at a record-setting pace.

The yard, which serves Evergreen Marine Corp. (Taiwan) and “K” Line (Japan), handled a record 7,312 intermodal lifts (transfers of containers between ship and rail) from Feb 8 to Feb. 14.

The previous one-week record was set at 6,825 lifts in October 2002 – the first week after the West Coast labor lockout.

Compared with January 2002, the Port of Tacoma cargo volume was up 35 percent – a third of this increase can be attributed to Lloyd Triestino’s (Italy) new direct-China service to Tacoma, according to port officials.

The NIM is unique for two reasons: It was the world’s first on-dock intermodal yard when it opened in 1981, and it is the only all-straddle carrier operation in the Western United States.

Port officials credit some of the increased volume to shipments that were delayed in the wake of the October 2002 labor lockout.

“We believe shipping delays have played a role in this increase, but we don’t know to what extent,” explained Doug Ljungren, the Port of Tacoma’s business planning manager.

He continued: “Also, there has been some diversion of export containers to Tacoma due to continued congestion at other West Coast ports.”

With a record container volume of more than 1.47 million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) in 2002, port officials had projected the container business growth to level off to a modest 4.4 percent and intermodal activity to increase by 5 percent.

“Those projections are conservative, but if the early indicators for 2003 continue, we will need to revise those forecasts,” Ljungren concluded.