Port of Tacoma sees container volumes grow in 2012

Double-digit growth in both imports and exports propelled a 16 percent gain in the Port of Tacoma’s 2012 container volumes, Port of Tacoma officials announced Friday. Breakbulk cargo volumes ended 68 percent higher for the year. The Port handled 1.7 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) in 2012, marking its best year since 2008.

Full containerized imports improved more than 27 percent for the year to 611,085 TEUs, bolstered by strong demand for auto parts, furniture, toys and sporting goods. Agricultural products and bulk commodities like scrap paper helped push full export container volumes up almost 22 percent for the year to 457,078 TEUs. Tacoma’s 2012 container volumes reflect the addition of the Grand Alliance and its associated carriers in July, according to port officials, as well as significantly stronger volumes from established customers. The new Grand Alliance services helped increase container vessel calls by 10 percent.

December marked an unusually robust month for container volumes. The Port handled 176,658 TEUs, a 45 percent increase over December 2011. The strong December volumes can be attributed in part to cargo diverted from Southern California ports during the eight-day labor strike in late November and early December. Shippers also appear to be diverting some cargo to West Coast ports as uncertainty continues regarding labor negotiations on the East and Gulf coasts.

For the second straight year, Tacoma’s breakbulk volumes improved 68 percent. Strong demand overseas for construction and agricultural equipment, and more calls by larger roll-on, roll-off vessels boosted breakbulk volumes to nearly 260,000 short tons.

Additional 2012 cargo results from Tacoma:

  • Intermodal lifts grew 30 percent, reflecting the Port’s growing container volumes;
  • Total tonnage improved almost 4 percent to nearly 18 million tons;
  • Auto imports fell almost 9 percent from the 2011 volumes boosted by diverted imports;
  • Log exports declined 35 percent as demand from Asia slowed;
  • Grain exports fell 19 percent due in part to drought in the U.S. Midwest;
  • For 2013, the Port forecasts 14 percent growth in container volumes, along with a 7 percent boost in auto imports and moderate gains in grain and log exports.

More information about the Port of Tacoma’s 2012 cargo totals is available online here.