Renovated Terminal 7 drives growth

In mid-October, five over-dimension trucks arrived at the Port of Tacoma from Alberta, each laden with a huge Canadian-made gas compressor. Days later, the Spliethoff Anjeliergracht arrived at Terminal 7 to load the five 128,000-pound compressors for their ultimate destination: Brisbane, Australia.

The shipment, say port officials, illustrates Tacoma’s growing role as a breakbulk center for the Northwest United States and Western Canada.

In recent years, explains Susan Becklund, the Port’s Director of Operational Services, cargo like this may have been routed through the Gulf Coast and Panama Canal. “Today, shippers are recognizing that Tacoma offers a price- and time-competitive breakbulk alternative.”

The huge Canadian compressors are just a small part of what is shaping up to be another record breakbulk year for the Port. Through September 2006, Port breakbulk cargo volumes are up 19.7% compared to the same period (January-September) in 2005. “We’re now forecasting that 2006 will be a record year for breakbulk at the Port of Tacoma,” said Port of Tacoma Senior Director of Operations and Maintenance John Bush.

“By 2010, we expect breakbulk to grow by another 30% over 2005 levels.”

According to Bush, many in the shipping industry predicted the demise of breakbulk as containerization took hold over the past 30 years. “It has become increasingly clear that some cargo just isn’t fit for containers,” he said, noting that surges in breakbulk cargo generally indicate that companies - both overseas and in North America ’ are making significant capital investments in infrastructure.

Penny Justice, the Port’s Operations Superintendent, added that the port’s recent renovation of Terminal 7 and subsequent consolidation of breakbulk operations is driving growth. “Terminal 7 offers our customers a large, secure cargo staging area that is ideally suited for over-dimension and roll-on/roll-off cargoes,” she said. “Regionally, Tacoma is positioned to competitively handle cargo, whether its destination or origin is Alberta, Utah or Puget Sound.”

At 25 acres, Terminal 7 features a 100,000 square-foot warehouse, three berths and on-dock rail, enabling direct discharge of cargo from ships to rail. And for truck transport, the terminal - located just a few miles from Interstate 5 and a half hour from Interstate 90 - features a truck gate, truck scale and a fully staffed Port Customer Service department. The Port Operations staff is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Background: Terminal 7 ’ Breakbulk

The Port of Tacoma consolidated breakbulk operations at Terminal 7 after completing a $1 million facility renovation in July 2006. Located on the 51-foot (15.5-meter) deep Sitcum Waterway, this Port-operated terminal offers customers a large cargo staging area with on-dock rail, a large warehouse and expedited access for trucks.

Terminal features include:

  • 25 acres (10 hectares)
  • On-dock rail, with boxcar loading capability
  • 100,000 square-foot (conversion) cargo warehouse
  • Three berths
  • Two gantry cranes
  • Four top picks and 36 forklifts
  • Truck scale
  • Three miles from Interstate 5 and a half hour from Interstate 90
  • Available reefer plugs
  • Available mafi trailers
  • Available yard hustlers
  • Available straddle carriers
  • Available dockside and floating cranes