Updates from maritime: healthy container increases at Seattle and Tacoma, shippers ship out at Portland and modernization proposed for Terminal 5.
The Northwest Seaport Alliance, the container partnership between the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma, notched a solid traffic gain in April. Loaded export containers increased 7.2 percent from a year earlier, and loaded import containers grew by 7.1 percent.
The numbers are important because they give the best apples-to-apples data for the alliance so far. The previous months this year were skewed by big volumes in the first months of 2015 in the aftermath of the West Coast labor dispute. Also, the ports held their own in the face of Asian economic weakness and continued consolidation among container shipping lines.
In 20-foot-equivalent units (TEUs), the industry yardstick, April volumes were 104,396 in loaded imports and 76,937 in loaded exports.
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• The Port of Portland has likely seen its last container business, with Puyallup-based Westwood Shipping (formerly owned by Weyerhaeuser) making its final call there last Saturday. Hanjin Shipping and Hapag-Lloyd, which made up about 90 percent of the port’s container business, already have pulled out.
A major reason behind the loss of the big lines was a suicidal standoff between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and terminal operators; work slowed as contract negotiations lagged on. But another cause is global overcapacity of shipping, weaker demand, bigger ships and more competitive ports. This may not be the last West Coast port that loses its container business.
• We may not see a container ship the size of the Benjamin Franklin in the Puget Sound for a long while, but bigger ships are still the industry reality. The Port of Seattle is preparing an environmental impact statement for improvements to Terminal 5, to make it big ship ready with power upgrades to handle larger cranes, deepening of the berth and dock strengthening. The port and the Seaport Alliance are beginning the public comment period and you can read more here.
Yes, this is the same terminal that attracted controversy when it was used by Shell to park an oil rig. Modernization would make it available for container ships, instead.
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