Port of Tacoma: Larger vessels, early peak shipping season lead to gains

Larger vessels and an early jump on the traditional peak shipping season contributed to the second consecutive month of year-over-year gains in Port of Tacoma container volumes, Port of Tacoma officials announced Monday.

Containers improved 10 per cent in April compared to the same month last year.

The larger vessels calling Tacoma terminals are bringing additional cargo across Port of Tacoma docks, and some shippers began moving cargo ahead of the peak season in an effort to avoid possible supply chain disruptions due to contract negotiations with U.S. West Coast dockworkers, according to Port of Tacoma officials. Negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and the Pacific Maritime Association began May 12. The current contract expires June 30.

Year to date, the Port’s container volumes improved three per cent to 633,225 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units). Full containerized imports grew five per cent on the year to 238,672 TEUs, while exports posted a four per cent gain to 184,823 TEUs. Domestic volumes continue to lag, down one per cent.

Grain exports improved 31 per cent year to date to 1.8 million short tons. Volumes appear to be returning to normal following last year’s severe drought in the U.S. Midwest and increased competition from South America, according to Port of Tacoma officials.

Auto imports and breakbulk cargo—items too large or bulky to fit in a container—continued to post year-to-date increases, up 14 per cent and 28 per cent respectively. Log exports fell 32 per cent as the housing market slowed in China, and intermodal lifts continued to be down 11 percent.

More information is available online at portoftacoma.com and here (Cargo Statistics — April 2014) and here (Container Volumes — April 2014).