Tacoma Intermodal Yard Sets Record

Wednesday, February 26, 2003
The Port of Tacoma's North Intermodal Yard (NIM) handled a record 7,312 intermodal lifts (transfers of containers between ship and rail) from February 8-14. The yard, which serves Evergreen Marine Corp. (Taiwan) and "K" Line (Japan), is opening 2003 like it closed 2002. The previous one-week record was set at 6,825 lifts in October 2002 -- the first week after the West Coast labor lockout. Compared with January 2002, the Port of Tacoma cargo volume was up 35 percent. "This has been a very strong first quarter for the Port, and we would not be surprised to see more records fall in the coming months," said Agnes Smith, the Port's Operations Superintendent, adding that a third of this increase can be attributed to Lloyd Triestino's (Italy) new direct-China service to Tacoma. "Two years ago, nobody would have thought these volumes were possible," Smith said, making note of the NIM's recent $7.8 million upgrade and the Port's new computerized intermodal management system. "This results in much greater fluidity of rail car movement through the yard." The NIM is unique for two reasons: It was the world's first on-dock intermodal yard when it opened in 1981, and it is the only all-straddle carrier operation in the Western United States. The operational efficiencies realized at the NIM, says Jeff Lincoln, the Port's Senior Director of Facilities Development, have served as the basis for many design elements of Evergreen's new 237-acre facility, which will start construction later this year. Once completed, the facility will be the largest container terminal north of Los Angeles -- and after the NIM, the second all-straddle carrier operation on the West Coast. Port officials credit some of the increased volume to shipments that were delayed in the wake of the October 2002 labor lockout. "We believe shipping delays have played a role in this increase, but we don't know to what extent," explained Doug Ljungren, the Port of Tacoma's Business Planning Manager. "Also, there has been some diversion of export containers to Tacoma due to continued congestion at other West Coast ports." With a record container volume of more than 1.47 million TEUs (Twenty-foot Equivalent Units) in 2002, Port officials had projected the container business growth to level off to a modest 4.4 percent and intermodal activity to increase by 5 percent. "Those projections are conservative, but if the early indicators for 2003 continue, we will need to revise those forecasts," Ljungren concluded.
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