Port of Tacoma Container Numbers Bounce Back in November

By John Gillie, December 18, 2013, The News Tribune

After seeing its container cargo volume numbers fall below last year’s figures in August, September and October, the Port of Tacoma this week reported its November container numbers improved 3.1 percent over November 2012.

Despite the declines in the three previous months, the port’s total container unit count for the year through the end of November is nearly 12 percent above the 2012 count, said the port.

The port said the upward jump in November was the result of merchants adjusting their inventory of foreign-made goods upward late in the year.

In other categories of cargo, the port’s results through November are a mixed bag.

Log exports are up nearly 28 percent. Breakbulk cargo is down almost 23 percent.  Breakbulk cargoes are items too large or awkwardly shaped to fit in containers such as construction and farm machinery.

The breakbulk volumes are down but only in relation to the huge volumes the port saw last year because of exports of construction, mining and farming machinery to Australia and Asia. Those markets have slowed down this year.

The story for grain exports is likewise good and bad news.  The bad news is that for the year through the end of last month, grain exports are down by almost 45 percent.  That decline was due in part to last year’s severe drought in the Midwest that diminished the supplies of grain that were available for export earlier this year.

In the last two months, however, grain exports have moved upward with ships often waiting in Commencement Bay for room at the port’s grain elevator on Schuster Parkway.

Auto imports are one category that has remained fairly steady with numbers of imported vehicles increasing by three percent through the end of last month.

If the number of ships moving through Commencement Bay has seemed higher than normal, port figures confirm that impression. Through November’s last day 1169 vessels have called on the port in 2013 compared with 994 in the same period in 2012.

That’s at 17.6 percent increase over the first 11 months of 2012.

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