By Debra Smith HBJ Freelance Writer
EVERETT — The Port of Everett is the second-fastest growing port on the West Coast when it comes to the value of products exported, according to U.S. Trade Numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Those numbers are likely a bellwether of better things to come, since ports tend to be one of the first things to recover after a downturn.
The Port of Everett exported $12.6 billion in cargo in 2011, a 29 percent increase from the previous year. That places the Port of Everett at No. 5 in export value among dozens of ports along the West Coast, and No. 2 in the state behind the Port of Seattle.
“Our seaport is small but mighty,” said John Mohr, port executive director. “Our shipping terminals support the local aerospace industry, which is a key economic driver in our region.”
Ports are ranked by the volume of containers or tonnage handled, or by the value of cargo.
When the Port of Everett is ranked by volume, it’s a distant third in this state to the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Both of those ports handle many containers filled with consumer goods.
In contrast, the Port of Everett specializes in handling high-value equipment that doesn’t fit in containers, such as aerospace assemblies, construction and mining equipment, and wind-energy components.
The top West Coast ports by export value in 2011 were Los Angeles ($43.7 billion); Long Beach, Calif., ($34.8 billion); Oakland, Calif., ($18.2 billion); Seattle ($13.2 billion); and Everett ($12.6 billion).
Most ports are handling more cargo as the economy picks up and companies successfully tap into the customer base overseas, said Eric Schinfeld, president of the Washington Council on International Trade.
“When the domestic market is depressed, the real opportunities are overseas,” he said.
The Port of Everett also is benefiting from Boeing, federal efforts to boost exports and improved trade relations with Russia.
The port added a fourth shipping line last summer — an important, stable source of business. Sakhalin Shipping Co. began moving goods from the Port of Everett to support the mining industry in the Russian Arctic.
The port is taking steps to increase exports, said Lisa Lefeber, Port of Everett spokeswoman. Work is already under way on a $4.4 million dock at the port’s south terminal. When complete, the dock will allow the world’s largest cargo ships that handle cargo with wheels or tracks to stop in Everett, such as aerospace parts, military cargo and construction equipment.
The dock at the south terminal was built in the 1970s to handle log exports and it needs to be strengthened, Lefeber said. The port hopes to entice new shipping lines, such as those that carry military cargo. The project is scheduled to be completed in 2014.
“This opens up a new market face,” she said.