Puget Sound Business Journal: Ports of Tacoma and Seattle: A logical logistical alternative

The following article authored by Mark Hosfeld, Duke Realty vice president of leasing and development in Seattle, was originally published in the Puget Sound Business Journal.


The Seattle market has numerous newly-developed large warehouses, including approximately 495,000 square feet of space at The Cubes at DuPont, to store and distribute products.

For the past 20 years, the Port of Los Angeles has been the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere — managing cargo loads valued at more than $250 billion annually. [1] As the second-busiest container seaport in the United States, the Port of Long Beach handles trade valued at $170 billion annually. [2] So, it’s not unusual to see lots of cargo vessels in the waters of the Pacific Ocean headed to California. What is unusual is the recent port congestion.

During a recent trip to Southern California, as my plane was in its final descent, I took a peek out of the window and saw the armada of cargo vessels moored outside the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach waiting for a berth. Cargo from all over the world stacked tall on ships rather than making it to the consumer. It’s not good for shippers, the ports or consumers to have vessels idling off the coast. The Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach are overwhelmed with the number of ships bringing product, whether California is the final stop or just another link in the supply chain.

There are many factors contributing to the congestion — labor deficiencies, truck chassis shortages, lack of shipping containers and very limited warehouse space. In fact, the greater Los Angeles market area with its two billon square feet of industrial warehouse space had a record-low 1.9% vacancy rate this past quarter. [3] Additionally, supply chain inefficiencies are compounding the issue. Unfortunately, relief is not in sight.

Seeing the anchored ships waiting, it begs the question — why not bring that cargo to the Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) where the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma are ready, willing and able to efficiently offload the goods? The NWSA is making significant investments in the ports recently, including the installation of four ZPMC Super-Post Panamax Cranes at the Port of Seattle that should be operational in early 2022. Meantime, at the Port of Tacoma, there are currently eight Super-Post Panamax Cranes already in operation.

Despite increased volumes at the NWSA — up 19.9% year over year [4] — there is still available capacity to efficiently offload more product. Once offloaded, the Seattle market has numerous newly-developed large warehouses, including the largest available space in the market, approximately 495,000 square feet of space at The Cubes at DuPont, to store and distribute the product, according NWSA. These modern warehouses offer plenty of trailer parking on-site, expansive dock doors, building clear heights of 32′ to 40′, all at market-driven rental rates. With Seattle’s vacancy rate for warehouses currently at 6.4%, there is availability for 190,000 to 495,000-square-foot facilities. [5]

According to recent Census Bureau data, there are nearly 23 million consumers in Southern California, making the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach a desirable and logical port of entry for consumer goods. However, not all shipments entering those ports are direct to consumers in Southern California. So, for shipments and goods that continue through the supply chain beyond California, the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma would be a more efficient port of entry — one day closer to Asia and with limited wait time in the harbor.

Mark Hosfeld, vice president of leasing and development in Seattle

The NWSA business is supported by Union Pacific and BNSF rail operations. Both railroads have capacity for increased volumes out of the NWSA ports and offer domestic and international intermodal deliveries. Approximately, 25% of the goods entering NWSA ports remain in the Seattle area trucked to local warehouses or directly to local consumers, according to NWSA. That means 75% of the goods entering NWSA ports are hauled by rail to other markets like Salt Lake City, Chicago, Cincinnati and other eastern markets.

The Seattle market, through the NWSA, offers a unique opportunity to efficiently handle a greater volume of goods, which would be one way to reduce the supply chain disruptions that we are currently experiencing. Capacity and efficiency make the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle a logical logistical alternative to the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.