For the first time since November, monthly container traffic volumes at the Port of Tacoma surpassed those in the same month in the prior year in March, the port reported this week.
Container numbers improved by 8.5 percent last month over March 2013. The port handled 185,415 container units last month, according to port statisticians.
That increase wasn't quite enough to push the port's container traffic into positive territory for 2014. For the year through the first quarter container traffic lagged by 0.3 percent.
January container numbers had been down by 5.2 percent, and February was off by 5.4 percent, port figures show.
The traditional shutdown of manufacturing during the early February Lunar New Year celebrations adversely affected February's numbers, the port said.
Boosting March volumes in Tacoma were also containers that were diverted from the Port of Vancouver, B.C. during a trucking strike there and an influx of empty containers heading back to Asia in preparation for the beginning of the Christmas shipping season in mid-summer.
The port along with its rival to the north, Seattle, has suffered from a general decline of shipping volumes through the Pacific Northwest as container lines consolidate shipments through Southern California and import goods through Prince Rupert, B.C., where those goods can dodge the roughly $100 per container U.S. Harbor Maintenance Tax.
Other bright spots in the Port of Tacoma's March cargo report were breakbulk cargoes, up 25.4 percent through the end of the quarter, autos, up 14.1 percent through the end of last month and grain exports, up 14.4 percent for the year through March 31.
On the negative side of the ledger were log exports, down 8.5 percent through the first quarter and gypsum shipments, off 13.2 percent for the year-to-date through the end of March.