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Rail News: Intermodal

Container volumes tumbled at Tacoma port, rose at Virginia port in January

The Port of Tacoma, Wash., registered declines in both total container and rail intermodal volumes in January.

Container volume decreased 5 percent year over year to 140,832 20-foot equivalent units (TEUs). Although imports grew nearly 5 percent, exports were relatively flat and domestic volume dropped 13 percent compared with January 2013 totals.

"The dip in exports was expected due to the timing of Lunar New Year, which fell in late January. The holiday fell in mid-February last year," port officials said in a press release. "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."

Meanwhile, intermodal rail volume fell 17 percent in January as inclement winter weather in the U.S. Midwest and East Coast impacted rail service to key intermodal destinations, they said. Tacoma Rail provides switching and terminal rail services at the port, while four on- and near-dock intermodal yards in Tacoma are served by BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad.

Meanwhile, the Port of Virginia in January handled 167,272 TEUs, up 5.4 percent from January 2013's  mark. Exports rose 7 percent and imports increased 3.5 percent.

Rail volume "also was also strong," climbing 8 percent to 32,277 containers, port officials said in a press release. The port is served by CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, Bay Coast Railroad Inc. and Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line Railroad Co.

"We had forecast growth in 2014 and in the first month, our volume exceeded our forecast," said Virginia Port Authority Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director John Reinhart. "We're strong on the export side because the ocean carriers are taking advantage of Virginia's deep water and loading heavy on the outbound leg of their journey."

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