By Steve Wilhelm, July 2, 2013, Puget Sound Business Journal
Auto exports are accelerating at the Port of Grays Harbor, as that port rides a boom of vehicle shipments led by Chrysler Corp.
Port leaders expect to export up to 100,000 Chrysler vehicles this year, mostly Jeeps and other SUVs, after exporting 71,007 in 2012.
“Strategically this has given the port a huge international exposure into the Far East, parts of the world we were not exporting to before,” said Leonard Barnes, manager of business and trade development for the port. “We’re helping fill that mission at the port, by exporting vehicles.”
He added that the exports have been “a tremendous economic job creator for the port and Grays Harbor County,” given that unemployment there is running at about 12 percent.
The exports parallel a wider rise in U.S. auto exports, which rose to a record one million vehicles in 2012, more than triple 2003 exports, according to a story in the Wall Street Journal.
Many of the U.S. export autos are foreign brands built in the United States, with BMW exporting SUVs from its South Carolina factory and Honda expecting by 2014 to export more vehicles from its U.S. factories than it imports from Japan.
The move to auto exports is significant for the Port of Grays Harbor, which for decades was best known for log exports. The Chrysler products are being exported to Japan, South Korea and China from the port’s Terminal 4, which as recently as 1999 was exclusively a log export terminal.
The growth in exports is the result of multiple factors, including the relative weakness of the dollar, the increasing global competitiveness of U.S. auto manufacturers, and the fact that Italy’s Fiat since 2009 has been buying Chrysler stock, and is now majority owner.
Unlike Ford and General Motors, Chrysler itself has no overseas factories, and therefore it’s exporting vehicles directly from the United States, tapping Fiat’s distribution network.
The autos are handled by Pasha Automotive Services, which started operations at the port in 2009.
Vehicles arrive at the port on trains operated by BNSF Railways and Union Pacific Railroad, and are carried by Siem Car Carriers.