PACIFIC NORTHWEST PORTS - Port of Seattle forecasts 8% growth over next five years

By: | at 07:00 PM | Channel(s): Ports & Terminals  

By George Lauriat, AJOTThe Port of Seattle recently discussed growth and capacity issues with the AJOT.AJOT: In 2005 the Port of Seattle topped 2 million teus, an 18% increase over 2004. What are you forecasting for growth over the next few years? Do you anticipate any shift in commodities or the tradelanes?
POS: We are forecasting an average growth rate of about eight percent over the next five years. We expect the trend toward increased import distribution activity in the PNW to continue, which means our increases in volume are likely to be permanent.
AJOT: What impact has the establishment of regional DCs had on the Port?
POS: It has brought more cargo and changed the percentage of direct eastbound intermodal rail boxes from 70% to about 65%. Boxes that once went directly to rail now are trucked to distribution centers where they are repacked.
AJOT: steamship lines have often used the Port of Seattle (and other Pacific Northwest ports) as an exit point for the redeployment of containers. However, recent port figures suggest that a new trend may be emerging as full outbound loads have increased. Where are the “new” full loads coming from?
POS: Nearly all the major export trade lanes have experienced an increase in full outbound loads. For example, Asian outbound full loads jumped from 357,817 teus in 2004 to 448,557 teus last year. Alaska and Hawaiian domestic trades also had major jumps in outbound full loads over the same period.
AJOT: When do you anticipate breaking ground on the new box terminal? When complete, how large will the terminal be and what is the projected capacity?
POS: The Port Commission will make a decision in the third or fourth quarter of 2006. If they give staff the go-ahead, we’ll break ground in the first quarter of 2007.
AJOT: Rail links are an important feature of the Port from both a bulk (grain, etc.) and intermodal aspect. What is the current state of rail traffic, and how will it fit with the new terminal?
POS: We have ample capacity on the mainline railroads from Seattle to the Midwest. We also have good capacity in the on-dock and near-dock yards in Seattle. If capacity gets tight, the PNW ports could work with the BNSF to re-open Stampede Pass, which would give us a third route across the Cascade range. The BNSF and UP have agreed to move most Westbound trains over Stevens Pass and most Eastbound trains through the Columbia River Gorge. This has improved the flow and capacity in and out of the Puget Sound region. Both railroads also have taken steps to densify their intermodal yards here in Seattle, improving throughput. The on-dock yard at T-5 has about 30% unused capacity. The on-dock yard at T-18 is unused at this time, but is ready to be put to use if and when volumes justify it.

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American Journal of Transportation