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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

January 19, 2011 at 8:00 AM

Port of Seattle enjoys record-breaking 2010

The Port of Seattle posted record container traffic last year, driven by reviving demand for imports as well as stronger American exports. It’s one of clearest signs yet that the Puget Sound economy saw a real, if uneven, recovery in 2010, as well as the importance of the region’s Asia focus.

In port-speak, Seattle handled a record 2.13 million TEUs last year, surpassing its previous high of 2.09 million in 2005. A TEU is a twenty-foot equivalent, a key measure of container transportation. Overall harbor volume rose 8 percent in December compared with the same month in 2009, and was up 34.6 year-to-date. The big dog was Maersk/CMA CGM, accounting for more than 282,690 TEUs last year. Growth also came from new services the port expects to continue, as well as extra calls not on the schedule of the container ships.

The Port of Tacoma handled 1.46 million twenty-foot equivalent containers in 2010, 5.8 percent down from 2009’s 1.55 million TEUs. But, according to the port, the last three months of 2010 have shown growth.

The Port of Seattle numbers show a nearly 47 percent gain in full containers coming in, and a 19.3 percent increase in those going out. More than 273,000 TEUs left the port last year to be repositioned in Asia as most exporters there began growing again. Not everything was up. Intercoastal traffic fell by nearly half, but it’s a tiny part of the overall total.

The ports are windows on both the state and national trade picture. Washington exports increased 8.6 percent in the third quarter vs. the same period in 2009. Unfortunately, aerospace exports, the state’s largest dollar volume, were down for the first nine months, holding down growth. China continued to be the state’s largest customer, with $5 billion in exports, with Canada a close second.

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Hu’s on first? Hardly

The U.S. still holds that base

Number one, meet two

Comments | More in Ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Trade

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