January 28, 2009

Port's 2008 Cargo Volumes Reflect Global Economic Conditions

Reflecting the global recession and its effects on U.S. consumer demand and shipping, cargo volumes fell at the Port of Tacoma in 2008.

From 2002 through 2006, Tacoma set successive container cargo records, with volumes growing from 1.5 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent container units) to 2.1 million TEUs. In 2007, the Port's container volume fell to 1.92 million TEUs, and in 2008, the volumes fell 3.3 percent to 1.86 million TEUs.

Despite this drop, the Port of Tacoma fared better than other U.S. West Coast ports, which saw an average container cargo decline of 8.78 percent. "By focusing on the business needs of our customers, shippers and business partners, and aligning the Port of Tacoma's strengths, we captured a larger container market share even as world cargo volumes declined," said Port of Tacoma Deputy Executive Director John Wolfe.

The Port of Tacoma's 2008 cargo volumes were:

  • Total Tonnage – 20.3 million short tons (up 3.6 percent)
  • Containerized Cargo – 1.86 million TEUs (down 3.3 percent)
  • Breakbulk Cargo – 118,523 short tons (down 4.1 percent)
  • Autos – 159,079 units (down 9.1 percent)
  • Intermodal Lifts – 407,993 (down 15.2 percent)
  • Grain – 6.79 million short tons (up 13.6 percent)

While cargo volumes declined in 2008, Wolfe notes that the Port's financial performance remained strong. The Port closed 2008 with $99.1 million in operating revenue – a 1.3 percent increase over 2007 performance.

Port of Tacoma Commission President Clare Petrich says the Port of Tacoma is working to plan and build the facilities and infrastructure that will be needed to keep the Port competitive in the future. "In 2008, we not only moved forward on our terminal redevelopment plans, but we reached significant agreements with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians and SSA Containers," she said. "These agreements lay the foundation for mutual support for each party's terminal development projects."

Today's down economy, says Petrich, provides a good period for Port redevelopment and infrastructure investment. "Ports are much more than crossroads in the global supply chain, they are economic drivers for the communities that they serve," she said. "In Tacoma, construction of new terminals, road, rail and utility infrastructure and related environmental cleanups creates economic vitality.

"Once these projects are complete," Petrich added, "our entire region benefits from the addition of thousands of family-wage jobs."

Port Media Relations: Mike Wasem, 253-383-9436