Port of Tacoma sets record year in 2002

In spite of last year’s labor troubles with West Coast dockworkers that shut down operations for a time, the Port of Tacoma strengthened its position in 2002 as the leading seaport in the Pacific Northwest, setting yearly records in five categories.

The port set new standards in the following categories: operating revenues, $72.9 million; containerized cargo, 1,470,834 TEUs; intermodal activity, 362,344 intermodal lifts; and auto imports/exports,180,173 vehicles.

“This growth and our port’s strong financial performance – plus our ongoing commitment to road, rail and marine infrastructure investments – contribute to the region’s economy,” said Port of Tacoma Commission President Dick Marzano. “It’s great to have a record-setting year, but our focus is an even better future.”

At the close of business on Dec. 31 of last year, the Port of Tacoma had generated operating revenue of $72.9 million, up 19 percent from 2001. The previous record was set in 2000 at $62.3 million.

“It’s not surprising that in a year of record volumes, we would also set a record for operating revenue,” said Andrea Riniker, the port’s executive director. “We are proud of our accomplishments, but we are not sitting back on our laurels. Our Port Commission has authorized a $341 million Capital Improvement Plan, designed to continue our momentum and keep the Port of Tacoma growing as a major Pacific gateway well into the future.”

The Port of Tacoma closed 2002 at 1,470,834 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) – an 11.4 percent increase from 2001. According to Brendan Dugan, the port’s senior director of marketing and trade, the 2002 record will soon be exceeded.

“We are set to begin first-phase construction of a new container terminal for Evergreen Marine Corporation (Taiwan) that will eventually have 237 acres and a 1.2 million-TEU capacity,” he said, noting that Phase 1 of the new terminal is scheduled for completion in late 2004. “This opens Evergreen’s current 75-acre terminal, which has an annual capacity of 450,000 TEUs, for a new tenant or expansion of an existing customer.”

The Port of Tacoma’s 2002 container volume was driven by a 19 percent growth in international business, said Dugan, explaining the new China-Pacific Northwest service of Lloyd Triestino (Italy), which started in April 2002, was the largest single factor in this growth.

Meanwhile, at the port’s three major intermodal yards, intermodal lifts (transfers of containers between ship and rail) increased markedly in 2002.
The Port handled 362,344 intermodal lifts in 2002 — an increase of 36.6 percent from 2001.

Each of the port’s three intermodal yards recorded volume increases in 2002, led by a 69 percent gain at the North Intermodal Yard (NIM). Serving Evergreen, Lloyd Triestino, “K” Line (Japan) and Yang Ming Marine Transport Corp. (Taiwan), the NIM benefited from Lloyd Triestino’s new China service and from “K” Line’s partnership with Hanjin Shipping Co., Ltd. (Korea), significantly expanding its cargo volume through Tacoma.

The port’s investment in rail infrastructure over the past year, including the completion of a $7.8 million NIM upgrade, also contributed to this success, explained Jeannie Beckett, the port’s senior director of inland transportation.
“Following the October lock-out (a 10-day interruption of shipping activity), our rail system and intermodal yards responded with record productivity, quickly alleviating the cargo backlog and allowing the port to pursue additional business opportunities.”

The port also set an automotive import/export record at 180,173 vehicles – 6.3 percent more than 2001. According to Bob DeWald, the port’s senior director of industrial development and real estate, the increase can be attributed to purchase incentives offered by automakers, which kept U.S. auto sales strong despite the weak economy.

The largest auto processing company in the country, Tacoma-based Auto Warehousing Company (AWC), processes vehicle imports for Isuzu, Kia, Mazda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki at the Port of Tacoma. The Port is currently building a $40 million, 145-acre dedicated auto processing facility for AWC and the port’s five automotive customers.

“With this new facility, its built-in efficiencies and the port’s efficient inland transportation connections, we certainly expect this area of our business to expand considerably in the future,” DeWald said.

Security was another area of achievement in 2002, said Timothy J. Farrell, the port’s deputy executive director.

“The Port of Tacoma has been a leader in the issues of port facility security and supply chain security,” he said, noting the port’s work with legislators and a joint grant award applied for and issued to the Ports of Tacoma, Seattle and Everett by the Transportation Security Administration. “We have worked in partnership with other ports nationally and internationally on these issues, and we have played a central role in Operation Safe Commerce (OSC).”

OSC is a federally funded program that will provide a test-bed for new security techniques, designed to increase the security of container shipments – from the point of origin through the supply chain to the point of destination.

Looking ahead, port officials expect 2003 to be another year of records. However, the rapid growth experienced in 2002 is projected to level off.

According to Doug Ljungren, the port’s business planning manager, container business is expected to grow 4.4 percent, and total intermodal activity by 5 percent.