It’s taken nine years, but the Port of Tacoma’s terminals handled more than 225,000 container units last month for the first time since September 2005.
New figures from the port show container cargo numbers measured in 20-foot equivalent units or TEUs, climbed nearly 20 percent over the same month last year. Imports grew by 13 percent through the end of last month while exports increased by nine percent in that same period.
For the year through September, the port’s total container traffic was up 10.4 percent to 1.56 million. Those new totals are indicative of the rebound in retail imports and exports as well as the effect of new container shipping lines calling at the port.
The port two years ago attracted the Grand Alliance shipping consortium to its Washington United Terminal from Seattle. Just this summer, Westwood Lines moved its Puget Sound port to Tacoma from Seattle after the Port of Seattle closed its Terminal 5 for upgrading. Westwood had called at Terminal 5.
The port said it expects monthly volumes to decline from September’s peak because September typically is the top month for Christmas merchandise entering the country to sell for the holidays.
Besides containers, several other categories of cargo saw strong increases through last month. Grain shipments were up 94.9 percent on a bumper crop in the Midwest. Auto imports jumped by 15.5 percent on a stronger market for replacement vehicles. Breakbulk cargoes increased by 3.7 percent. Breakbulk items are those too large or too awkwardly shaped to fit in containers.
Other categories of cargo showed declines. Log shipments were off 23.2 percent because of a weaker housing market in China and gypsum imports dropped by 18.7 percent.
While Tacoma’s cargo figures were on the rise, the Port of Seattle’s were declining. In September, that port reported a decline of 23.4 percent in container numbers to 109,340 TEUs. That compares with Tacoma’s 225,890.
The two ports recently laid the groundwork to combine their marine cargo handling operations to improve their market share of goods imported to and exported from the United States. That cargo alliance could begin operations next summer.