Sunday, February 15, 2009

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery

The Port of Prince Rupert has clearly caught the attention of Ports up and down the West coast, but nowhere has its success so far in the world of containerization been watched than at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

The Port of Seattle has just announced that they are in the process of setting up a fast freight program that will see containers unloaded at Seattle/Tacoma sent by BNSF express trains to Chicago and Memphis, a project that sounds quite similar to Prince Rupert's current operation, though the Rupert option will still be a quicker option owing to our location closer as we are to Asia's ports.

The move by Washington state comes as the ports there suffer decreases in traffic due to the economy and competition ( hello there Rupert ), a nine million dollar budget shortfall and make plans to layoff non union employees for two weeks without pay.

The hope is to try and repatriate lost traffic ( yo Rupert ), or lure new traffic to the port by speeding up the process of container shipments from Seattle to Chicago and Memphis, highlighting an all American transportation grid from ship to rail to warehouses.

The Friday Daily News outlined some of the particulars and background of the new Seattle to Chicago service.

Washington ports seek quicker ride to Chicago
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Friday, February 13, 2009
Page three

In what is quite likely an example of what the rest of the West Coast ports think of Prince Rupert, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation through its subsidiary BNSF Railway Company has announced that it is gearing up its rail service from Washington state ports to Chicago.

BNSF announced last month that it would be offering an express international container service from the high-capacity ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., to BNSF's intermodal facilities in Memphis, Tenn., and BNSF's Logistics Park - Chicago in Illinois.
And if the tune sounds familiar, it should.

"This express service can cut down transit time by almost a full day, making it one of the fastest intermodal cargo services from the Pacific Northwest to Chicago and Memphis," said Steve Branscum, BNSF's group vice president, Consumer Products Marketing in a press release. "The new express service not only relies on the speed of the train and the route followed, but also the ability of the ports and the intermodal hubs to provide efficient and reliable service."

According to Mike Reilly, director, Intermodal Business, Port of Tacoma, "The Pacific Northwest gateway offers exceptional reliability for intermodal shipments and BNSF's revised service will enhance reliability and speed. The wide range of ocean carriers calling at our port, combined with this revised service, gives shippers tremendous flexibility when routing cargo through the Pacific Northwest."

In Chicago and Memphis, BNSF offers two of the most advanced intermodal hub facilities in North America. BNSF is in the process of expanding capacity at its Memphis facility, which will soon load and unload containers using five of the largest wide-span cranes in North America. The hubs will also employ automated checkpoints and scalable capacity to create a faster, more reliable and environmentally friendly process for moving trailers and containers between rail and highway.

"This enhanced express service from BNSF makes the Pacific Northwest gateway even more competitive by reducing transit times to hubs in Chicago and Memphis," said Charlie Sheldon, managing director of the Port of Seattle.

"The Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma have the capacity to handle more cargo now. There's never been a better time to route cargo through the PNW."

Initially, BNSF is offering one full train weekly from either port to either destination on a schedule that matches an ocean carrier's discharge/dray. BNSF will expand the service as shipper interest grows. Each aspect of this new express service is designed to move cargo quickly and efficiently in a safe and environmentally friendly manner.

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