Port of Seattle, Washington-Water Gateway

Port of Seattle, Washington-Water Gateway

The maritime Port of Seattle was the nation's 11th busiest waterborne freight gateway for international merchandise trade by value of shipments in 2008. It ranked 23rd by value among all air, land, and sea gateways. In 2008, merchandise trade passing through the Port of Seattle ($40 billion) accounted for 3 percent of the value of the total U.S. international waterborne trade. Seattle was a major gateway for imports, with inbound shipments representing 75 percent of the value of the freight it handled in 2008 (table 1).

By weight, the facility ranked 22nd among all U.S. water gateways in 2008, handling 22 million tons of freight, or about 1 percent of the total U.S. international waterborne freight. Exports through the port accounted for 62 percent of the tonnage, and imports accounted for 38 percent. But because Seattle's exports were lower in value per ton than its imports, exports accounted for 25 percent of the port's cargo by value (table 1).

Although the Port of Seattle handles some noncontainerized bulk cargo, it is primarily a container port. In 2008, it handled more than 1 million TEUs (20-foot equivalent units) carrying international imports and exports (table 1). This cargo accounted for 4 percent of the containerized TEUs handled at the nation's seaports. About 61 percent of Seattle's containerized cargo was inbound.

By weight of shipments, Canada was the port's leading origin country for imports in 2007, followed by China and South Korea (table 2).1 Japan was the leading destination for exports, followed by China and Taiwan.2 The leading seaports for cargo leaving or arriving at Seattle in 2007 were Tokyo, Japan; Beale Cove, Canada; Kao Hsiung, Taiwan; and Pusan, South Korea (table 3).

More than 1,000 vessels called at the Port of Seattle in 2008. Container vessels made the most calls at the port, accounting for 64 percent. About 28 percent of the calls were by dry-bulk ships (table 4).3

In 2008, the top imports were toys and sports equipment, machinery, electrical machinery, vehicles (not railway), and knit apparel. The top exports were grains, seeds and fruits; machinery; cereals; fish and seafood; and dairy, eggs, and honey.4

1 Data for 2008 are not available for weight and vessels calls. Data in tables 2, 3, and 4 are from 2007.

2 For official merchandise trade statistics, the U.S. Census Bureau reports Hong Kong and Taiwan separately. In this report, "China" refers to mainland China.

3 Dry-bulk ships carry homogeneous dry cargoes, such as grain, coal, steel, and iron ore.

4 Port of Seattle website, www.portseattle.org/seaport/statistics/trade/ as of Aug. 10, 2009.