The Port of Tacoma benefited from its diversified cargo mix in January, as container volumes got off to a slow start while other cargo categories posted gains.
Auto imports improved 63 percent year to date in January. The surge was in part the result of a year-end inventory push from Korean auto makers that coincided with the end of the fiscal year. Volumes are expected to moderate in February.
Breakbulk cargo, grain and log exports also grew last month. Breakbulk was up 15 percent compared to January 2013, while grain and logs grew more than 6 percent.
Meanwhile, overall container volumes fell 5 percent to 140,832 TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) last month. While full containerized imports improved nearly 5 percent, exports were relatively flat, down 1 percent. Domestic volumes dropped 13 percent.
The dip in exports was expected due to the timing of Lunar New Year, which fell in late January. Factories in China close their doors for one to two weeks for the holiday, so demand for such raw material exports as steel and paper traditionally drops. The holiday fell in mid-February last year.
Tacoma’s intermodal rail volumes also fell 17 percent last month, as inclement winter weather in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast impacted rail service to key intermodal destinations.