Port of Tacoma

October port container numbers up 11 percent for the year

The Port of Tacoma says its volume of cargo was up substantially in nearly all categories through October including its container shipments, up 11 percent for the year.

Those positive figures include only one day of the cargo handling slowdown which began Oct. 31 and continued through Monday as the Longshore union and a group representing terminal operators and shipping lines continued lower level contract negotiations.

October, the port said, was the eighth month in a row in which container numbers beat those in 2013. October containers handled, 181,112 20-foot container units, were 17.5 percent greater than in 2013 through October.

Container numbers through October in 2014 were 1,737,214, surpassing full year totals recorded in 2009 through 2012 and just 154,356 fewer than all of 2013.

In the past two months last year, the port saw 326,475 containers cross its docks.

Will the port surpass 2013's total container numbers this year? The answer may depend on how long the present container-handling slowdown continues. The port is reporting that the pace of container loading and unloading has been as much as 60 percent below normal since the slowdown began.

That slowdown may stem from the relative lack of progress in negotiations between the International Longshore Workers Union and the Pacific Maritime Association, which negotiates for terminals and shipping lines in 29 West Coast ports. The contract between the two groups expired July 1. The two have been talking since May without reaching a new deal.

In other cargo categories, the port reported grain shipments are up nearly 80 percent for the year through October. Automobile shipments are 13.9 percent over last year's and breakbulk cargoes are 6.2 percent over 2013's ten-month totals. Total port tonnage was up by 18.4 percent.

Two categories of cargoes were down year-to-year, logs and gypsum. Log exports declined by 30.5 percent because of a soft Chinese housing market. And gypsum was off 23.7 percent. Most of the gypsum is used in wallboard production for domestic housing consumption.

John Gillie: 253-597-8663