NYK’s Keller: Growth capacity behind carrier’s move to Tacoma
Peter Keller, president of Secaucus, N.J.-based NYK Lines North America said capacity, or lack of it, is the reason Tokyo-based ocean carrier NKY Line will move from the Seattle waterfront and build a new $300 million terminal at the Port of Tacoma.
In comments during a recent visit to The News Tribune's editorial board in Tacoma, Keller said the carrier took a realistic evaluation of the transpacific trade business and realized there are two required anchors on the U.S. West Coast: one in Southern California and one in the north. However, he noted that anything north of California could serve equally well as a northern West Coast anchor.
A lack of on-dock rail facilities and growing capacity constraints at NYK's Seattle facility, mainly from a neighboring downtown city core, led the firm to explore options in Portland, Ore.; Seattle and Tacoma, Wash.; and Vancouver and Prince Rupert in Canada, Keller said.
In the end, Keller said, NYK found that only the Pacific Northwest, and more specifically Tacoma, offered everything the carrier was looking for.
Keller also predicted NYK would continue to grow at 8 percent to 10 percent a year, and suggested that some of the firm's cargo may shift north from Southern California if efficiency and infrastructure issues further hamper goods movement in the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles.
A great deal of this decision, he said, would be based on what the railroads do. While noting the railroads are a major NYK partner, he said that aggressive pricing by the rail haulers and pricing structures need to be worked out so that 'pricing policies tend not to chase freight, but inspire freight.'
Keller said the permanent Tacoma move, a port the firm has already served for 20 years, will afford NYK greater options in moving cargo toward Chicago. NYK will build the new Tacoma terminal and then lease it from the port, and will provide it own terminal-operating and stevedoring services at the new facility.
The terminal will also showcase new technology, including designing it from the ground up with ship-to-shore power to allow vessels at berth to cut their auxiliary engines and thus produce much less pollution, he said. Keeler said he was also excited about other technologies being used in Chinese terminals, such as electrically-powered equipment versus the more polluting diesel powered variety found in the United States.