Puget Sound Ports Struggling to Keep Up

Container volumes through Puget Sound’s largest container ports remained flat in 2014, according to numbers released jointly for the first time by the U.S. West Coast ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

Puget Sound container volumes fell less than 1 percent in 2014 to 3.4 million 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs). Tacoma and Seattle’s combined volumes have hovered near 3.5 million TEUs since 2010. Last year marked the second consecutive year of decline, underscoring the competitive pressures reshaping the global shipping industry.

Larger vessels and shipping line alliances mean fewer vessels are calling at fewer ports. Together, Seattle and Tacoma comprise the third-largest container gateway in North America, but their share of the West Coast market has been falling over the past decade.

”The industry is changing and the competition from other North American ports is fierce,’‘ said Port of Tacoma Commission President Don Johnson. ”We must adapt and work together to maintain—and grow—our share of the West Coast market to benefit the economic health of Washington state.”

Containerized export volumes through the two ports dipped 1.6 percent last year to 1.2 million TEUs, while imports fell 4.1 percent to 1.4 million TEUs. Meanwhile, domestic container volumes grew 6.1 percent to 870,733 TEUs on the strength of the Alaska trade.

The two ports announced in October 2014 plans to form a Seaport Alliance to unify management of marine cargo terminals and related functions.

Image: Port of Tacoma

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