The container terminals at the ports of Tacoma and Seattle saw a 14 percent jump in cargo traffic last month as shippers sought Puget Sound’s less congested ports to handle their imports and exports.
Other West Coast ports are still coping with cargoes that stacked up over several months late last year and earlier this year during protracted contract negotiations between the Longshore union and the Pacific Maritime Association which represents shipping lines and terminal operators on the West Coast.
The contract between the union and the shipping interests expired last July, and a slowdown of cargo movements beginning in November created backlogs of unhandled cargo at the ports. The Northwest’s two largest ports, Tacoma and Seattle, cleared out their inventory of containers within a few weeks of the two sides reaching an agreement in March. Problems lingered for months elsewhere.
The two ports have formed an alliance this year to share the operations and marketing of most of their major terminals. They now report cargo statistics together instead of individually.
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Containerized exports improved 5 percent on the year through June to 628,718 20-foot-equivalent units, while imports grew nearly 3 percent to 715,307 TEUs. Domestic volumes remained flat, up 1 percent year to date to 433,715 TEUs. Empty container exports skyrocketed in June, up 86 percent year to date, as excess equipment that accumulated during the contract negotiations was sent back to Asia, the two ports said.
Other cargo category volumes were a mix of increases and declines. Breakbulk cargoes fell by 2 percent in the first half; grain exports dropped by 8 percent.
But auto import volumes increased by 5 percent to 93,890 vehicles.