Economic impact of Seattle and Tacoma ports quantified in study

Bill Mongelluzzo, September 30, 2014,

Maritime cargo activity at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma supported 48,100 direct, indirect and induced jobs and $4.1 billion in income and re-spending in the region, according to a study released Tuesday by Martin Associates.


The study includes all types of cargo handled by the Pacific Northwest ports. As a container gateway, the Seattle-Tacoma port complex in 2013 handled 3,461,672 20-foot container units, which ranks it third in the U.S. behind Los Angeles-Long Beach and New York-New Jersey.


Direct jobs generated by the ports include those in trucking, rail, distribution facilities, port authority offices, marine terminals, shipping lines, freight forwarders and customs brokers. Indirect jobs are generated at firms that serve port-related companies such as office supply, maintenance and repair, parts and equipment suppliers. Induced jobs result from spending by employees of port-related firms in the local communities.


Casting the net even further, when the farmers, manufacturers and other cargo interests that ship through the ports are included, port activities reach a total of 443,000 jobs in the state of Washington.


Because of the multiplier effect of income and spending, every dollar of income from port-related direct jobs correlates to an additional $2.70 in personal income in the region.


Exports are critical to the health of the local economy, and Seattle-Tacoma is the fourth-largest U.S. port complex in terms of value of exported products.


Business revenues by category are rail, $2.2 billion; marine terminal, $391 million; trucking, $379 million; warehousing, $362 million; shipyards and ship repair, $361 million; vessel and other support services, $337 million; and the port authorities themselves, $231 million.


The report also cited the external challenges the Pacific Northwest ports face as the maritime industry transitions to an environment marked by powerful carrier alliances operating larger, more efficient vessels. Industry consolidation places the ports in direct competition for business with ports in California and on Canada’s Pacific coast. Completion of the Panama Canal expansion project in early 2016 will result in increased competition from East Coast ports.


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