Port of Tacoma Executive Director Tim Farrell was the guest speaker at February’s Transportation Club of Tacoma luncheon at C.I. Shenanigan’s on Monday. Farrell provided an overview of Port activity, emphasizing that despite the current economic climate the Port of Tacoma is still planning for future growth.
In general, carriers are seeking to reduce costs during this period by increasing efficiencies; decreasing ships, increasing ports and consolidating to share capacity on ships and in terminals. Although the Port of Tacoma experienced a 3.2% reduction in cargo activity in 2008, comparatively, nationwide Port cargo has dropped by 6.8%. The decrease at the Port of Tacoma is due in part to Mersk and K-line consolidations that have resulted in reduced use of their Tacoma facilities.
On the other hand, some unique characteristics of the Port of Tacoma help keep it competitive. The port has been working for the last thirty years to bolster its intermodal cargo infrastructure, which enables a quick cargo transfer from ships to rail cars. Union Pacific Railroad, in particular, is exploring opportunities to increase its Pacific Northwest operations via the Port of Tacoma as a result of this infrastructure. Similarly, the Port’s strong trade relationships with Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and trade-dependant Pacific Rim countries continue to fuel the Port’ container and bulk auto activities.
Currently the Port is working with NYK Lines to build a new terminal in the Port. Depending on the depth of the economic downturn, the new terminal is scheduled to open in July 2012, bringing 3,000 high paying jobs to the region once the project is fully built out.
Overall, Farrell is optimistic about the Port of Tacoma’s ability to ride out the current economic crisis and anticipates an economic recovery for the Port by 2012.