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Rail News: Intermodal

Container volume down or even at three West Coast ports in '07

The Port of Tacoma's five-year winning streak is over. After posting cargo gains — and setting records — from 2002 to 2006, the Washington state port recorded a container volume drop in 2007.

The port's volume totaled 1.9 million 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs) vs. 2.1 million TEUs in 2006. Port officials attribute the 7 percent decline to the soft U.S. economy, weak housing market and rising cost of inland transportation.

In addition, intermodal lifts plummeted 19 percent to 481,102. However, total tonnage rose 3 percent year over year to 19.6 million tons.

Despite last year's woes, port officials aren't projecting a similar volume decline in 2008. The port's cargo forecast calls for container volume to rise 6 percent to 2.05 million TEUs, intermodal lifts to increase 9 percent to 525,350 and total tonnage to go up 3 percent to 20.1 million tons.

Meanwhile, the Port of Los Angeles last year handled 8.4 million TEUs, a 1.4 percent drop in total volume but 3.2 percent gain in loaded TEUs compared with 2006 totals. The port led the nation in container volume for the eighth straight year.

Containerized export cargo data shows loaded outbound container volume jumped 13 percent while empty container volume dropped 11.4 percent year over year.

At the nearby Port of Long Beach, Calif., container volume in 2007 totaled 7.3 million TEUs — the same amount handled in 2006. Export containers jumped 22 percent year over year to a record 1.5 million TEUs, but imported container volume fell 0.4 percent to 3.7 million TEUs.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/25/2008