In many ways, marine cargo is the face of ports. The word “port” brings to mind – these days anyway – big ships with big containers, and tall cranes moving them with incredible precision.
Recently, seaports marked fifty years of containerization. Before the advent of the box, all cargo was considered breakbulk cargo – the goods themselves, unfettered, were loaded on and off of ships by longshoremen, the men who stood “along the shore” while ships pulled into the harbor.
Now, marine cargo comes in three forms: containerized, breakbulk (items like cars or heavy equipment) and bulk, such as grain. Most cargo comes in boxes these days. Seaports measure the amount of cargo coming across their terminals in TEUs – twenty-foot equivalent units. Most of the containers you see now are actually forty-foot containers, so each FEU is measured as two TEUs.
But breakbulk and bulk cargoes are still going strong as well. Several ports have imported large wind turbines in recent years, an excellent example of how breakbulk cargo is still important to local ports. And of course, ports along the Columbia River and the coast are important in the movement of grains to and from terminals.
Visit our Resource Tools section to see a forecast for marine cargo in Washington State.