Port of Tacoma April container volumes up 10 percent

Staff writerMay 20, 2014 

April proved to be a good month for the Port of Tacoma with new statistics showing increases in container volumes, grain shipments, break bulk cargoes and automobile imports over the port's docks.

The critical container volume numbers were up 10.4 percent last month, the port said.  For the year, that put container traffic into positive numbers for the first time, 2.4 percent for January through April.

The port said that surge in container imports was due in part to retailers and manufacturers shipping goods from Asia earlier than usual because of fears that a mid-summer labor dispute between longshore workers and the association of shippers and terminal operators that employs them could halt shipping activity.

The port also noted that the average size of ships calling at the port's terminals has increased bringing more containers on every trip.

The International Longshore Workers Union and the Pacific Maritime Association began negotiations May 12 in an effort to reach a contract agreement for the West Coast's 29 ports.

The existing 6-year longshore contract expires June 30, but most observers expect the negotiations will continue beyond then if no tentative settlement is reached by then.

The last time negotiations failed, in 2002, a 10-day work stoppage resulted when the PMA locked out longshore union members.

Containers weren't the only positive news for the port. Grain shipments from the Port's Schuster Parkway grain elevator were up 31 percent for 2014's first four months. Grain exports are ramping up after they decreased last year because of a drought in the Great Plains where most of the grain is grown for export.

Auto imports also improved by 14 percent and break bulk cargoes jumped by 28 percent for the year through April. Break bulk cargoes are goods too large or bulky to be shipped in containers.

Not all numbers were positive. The port reported log exports fell 32 percent as housing activity in China moderated.

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