The maritime Port of Seattle is the nation’s tenth busiest waterborne freight gateway for international merchandise trade by value of shipments. And it is our twenty-first busiest gateway by value when compared with all U.S. freight gateways—land, air, and sea.
In 2003, merchandise trade passing through the Port of Seattle ($23 billion) accounted for 3 percent of the value of total U.S. international waterborne trade. Seattle is a major gateway for imports with inbound shipments accounting for 75 percent of the value of freight it handled in 2003.
By weight, the facility ranks twenty-eighth among all water gateways, handling 13 million tons and accounting for about one percent of total U.S. international waterborne freight. Because the port’s imports are higher in value per ton than it’s exports, imports accounted for a higher share of the port’s cargo by value, even though by weight the tonnage of imports and exports handled in 2003 were about equal. Between 1999 and 2003, the tonnage of cargo handled at Seattle declined 15 percent, from 16 million to 13 million tons, due mostly to a decline in import tonnage, which fell by 23 percent.
The Port of Seattle is primarily a container port, although it handles some noncontainerized bulk cargo. In 2003, the port handled over 0.8 million TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent units) carrying international imports and exports. This accounted for 4 percent of U.S. containerized TEUs handled at all our nation’s seaports. About 61 percent of Seattle’s containerized cargo was inbound shipments.
Over 1,000 vessels called at the Port of Seattle in 2003. Container vessels were the most frequent type to call at the port, accounting for 74 percent. About 20 percent of the calls were by dry-bulk ships.1
Canada was the port’s leading origin country for imports by weight of shipments, followed by China and Japan in 2003.2 Japan was the leading destination by weight for exports leaving Seattle, followed by China and Taiwan.3 The leading foreign seaports for cargo leaving or arriving at Seattle were Taiwan’s Kao Hsiung, South Korea’s Port of Pusan, Canada’s Port of Blubber Bay, and Port of Tokyo.
In 2003, the top containerized imports were wearing apparel, video games, footwear, and motor vehicle parts while the top exports were inorganic chemicals; beef, pork, and poultry; oilseeds; and industrial equipment.4
1 Dry-bulk ships carry homogeneous dry cargoes such as grain, coal, steel, and iron ore.
2 China, Japan, and South Korea were the leading trade partners by value (http://www.portseattle.org/seaport/statistics/trade/part2-Top30-2003.shtml).
3 For official merchandise trade statistics, the Census Bureau reports Hong Kong separately. In this report, China refers to mainland China.
4 The Port of Seattle website, http://www.portseattle.org/seaport/statistics/trade/part1.shtml.