Seattle, Tacoma ports lose share to Canadian ports

JOC Staff, May 4, 2015,

Seattle and Tacoma took a big hit in the first quarter as its market share among Canadian Pacific Northwest ports took a dive amid longshore labor disruption.

The two Puget Sound ports, which have consolidated their published throughput volumes under the Seaport Alliance, lost ground to both Vancouver and Prince Rupert in the first quarter, according to port-published data analysed by The Seaport Alliance saw its share of total PNW container volumes fall from 44 to 41 percent in the first quarter. Vancouver saw its share rise from 46 to 47 percent while Prince Rupert saw its share increase from 9 to 12 percent.


The loss in first quarter market share came despite a 21 percent surge in cargo at Seattle and Tacoma in March.


The first quarter decline continued a long term decline in share for Seattle and Tacoma. Their market combined market share among PNW ports was 48 percent as recently as 2011 and was 42 percent in 2014 as a whole. Meanwhile over that same time period Vancouver saw its share increase from 44 to 48 percent and Prince Rupert saw its share increase from 7 to 10 percent. Seattle and Tacoma have also been suffering a long term market share loss to Southern California as carriers have concentrated port calls at the Los Angeles-Long Beach complex.


The volumes may be difficult to get back. Prince Rupert is expanding its capacity and its terminal was recently sold to DP World, the Dubai-based terminal operator that can be expected to lure more carriers to the port roughly 500 miles north of Vancouver. Some U.S. shippers who used Prince Rupert to avoid the U.S. West Coast during the recent longshore labor negotiations have told they plan to maintain that routing.


Prince Rupert was growing rapidly in cargo volume since its opening six years ago, but in 2013 its volume actually declined by 5 percent compared to 2012. U.S. railroads told that the decline occurred when COSCO’s favorable intermodal contract with CN railroad ended and COSCO had to negotiate new intermodal rates to Chicago. Vancouver picked up its U.S. market presence in 2013 and that trend could have continued if 2014 were a normal year, but it wasn’t because of the ILWU negotiations.

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