Port of Tacoma, Auto Warehousing Company reach relocation agreement

The Port of Tacoma Commission recently approved a contract that will relocate Tacoma-based Auto Warehousing Company (AWC) operations from Pierce County Terminal to a new $40 million auto handling facility, freeing approximately 160 acres for future development of the Blair Waterway.

According to Bob DeWald, the Port’s senior director of industrial development and real estate, the agreement not only preserves a long-standing relationship with AWC, a customer since 1977, but also allows the Port to expand its automotive handling capabilities.

The largest auto processing company in the country, AWC operates 28 facilities throughout the United States. At the Port of Tacoma, the company processes vehicle imports for Isuzu, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki. The Port is projected to handle approximately 170,000 vehicles in 2002. This activity employs 200 AWC administrative and processing employees, and their business supports 100 trucking and 20 longshore jobs.

“Auto Warehousing is a very important Port customer,” said Jack Fabulich, president of the Port of Tacoma Commission. “They have grown over the years, right along with the Port. With this new auto-motive terminal, we are optimistic that their growth and our growth will continue on into the future.”

The Port’s plan to re-develop the 2.65-mile Blair Waterway required the relocation of AWC, explained DeWald. “Pierce County Terminal (now used for automotive, military, breakbulk and warehousing) will soon become a new, major container terminal,” he said. “While this develop-ment will aid the Port of Tacoma in the competitive West Coast container business, the diversity and economic stability of non-containerized cargoes, such as autos, is also a key to our future.”

Construction of the new auto processing facilities will begin in January 2003, with an anticipated completion date of November 2003. A dedicated bridge over Port of Tacoma Road from the new auto terminal on the Blair Waterway will be completed nine to 12 months later.

Encompassing 144 acres bordering Port of Tacoma Road and Marshall Avenue, the new auto processing facilities, says Steve Seher, AWC’s President and CEO, are designed for more efficient auto processing. “AWC has expanded nationally to process approximately 3.2 million vehicles this year from our 28 sites,” he said. “The Tacoma location has enjoyed the same growth, and this new state-of-the-art facility will enable AWC and the Port of Tacoma to handle all of the future growth to come.”

The lease and operating agreement, which runs through 2020, with options for further extensions, marks the conclusion of a two-year discussion and negotiation process with an industry planning group consisting of the Port, AWC, carriers, stevedoring companies, railroads, labor, Port representatives from Japan and Korea and the Port’s five major auto importers.