Copyright 2004, Traffic World, Inc.
She''s just back from her 14th trip to China and a little bleary-eyed. At the same time, there''s an underlying calmness and sense of accomplishment because this is what she loves.
"It''s been a banner year for the Port of Seattle," says Paige Miller, chair and president of the Seattle Port Commission. And it''s only going to get better for the port that prides itself as the Northwest gateway to Asia; indeed, most of its container business lies in the Asia-Pacific trade. Miller talked with representatives from China Shipping and China Ocean Shipping Co. in Shanghai, and the message she received was that the port should prepare for "a lot more cargo ... they told us to get ready."
Miller notes the additional cargo for Seattle''s container terminals is a direct result of the continuing congestion problems at Southern California ports. "It''s finally really happening," she says.
Up to now, the port''s surge in TEUs - up 11 percent to 1.24 million TEUs through September in addition to a record 33 percent surge that month - has not really hinged a great deal on diversions from the Southern California ports. There have been a few but not enough to fully explain the port''s big increase.
Miller says that because the Southern California congestion problem has continued virtually all year with no end in sight, the Chinese carriers are realizing they must make some changes in their schedules, which will mean more growth for Seattle. For example, she says that Cosco recently has made Seattle its first West Coast port of call, shifting from Vancouver, British Columbia.
It''s possible that the port will reach 1.7 million TEUs this year, which would indeed be a banner year for the port. The real test is to prove that the port can handle the added volume. "Be careful what you ask for," muses Miller, but she is confident.
"I think we can handle 3 million TEUs a year" with only a few minor adjustments at the port''s three major container terminals, 5, 18 and 46. "No major expansion is needed," she asserts, because in recent years the port has nearly doubled the capacity of its facilities at T-15 and T-18 at a cost of more than $600 million. It is also finishing a major $70 million upgrade of T-46 for Hanjin Line this year.