A powerhouse of the ports

For SSA Marine, high cargo volume means success. Global terminal operator SSA Marine focuses on moving lots of cargo from many shippers. It will bring a different business model to the Port of Tacoma.

KELLY KEARSLEY; The News Tribune
Published: September 16th, 2007 01:00 AM

Seattle-based SSA Marine, working with the Puyallup Tribe of Indians, plans to build a multimillion-dollar container terminal on Tacoma’s Tideflats. Scheduled to open in 2012, SSA’s terminal will likely look like other terminals at the port: stories-high cranes unloading large rectangular boxes off ships, stacks of containers lining the asphalt.

But the company brings a business model not yet seen in the Port of Tacoma.

The company depends on high volume – moving as many containers through its terminal as possible to generate lower costs for its customers. To do that, SSA Marine brings container ships from many shipping lines through its dock instead of designating one carrier for the terminal, as has been the tradition in Tacoma.

“This is not rocket science,” said Bob Watters, SSA Marine’s vice president of business development. “It’s a concept used everywhere in the world, except on the West Coast of the United States.”

Watters says SSA Marine’s operations maximize the use of the terminal land. But industry experts note that the company’s success depends on its ability to attract enough customers and cargo to its facility.

Here’s a look at the company, which is setting itself up to be a powerhouse in Tacoma’s expanding port.


SSA Marine’s parent company, Carrix, has 125 operations around the world, including container terminals, rail terminals and rail yards. The 58-year-old company handled 22 million TEUs (20-foot-equivalent-unit containers) last year – roughly 10 times the containers that came through either the Port of Seattle or the Port of Tacoma.

The company started managing terminals in Seattle and began marketing its abilities to manage terminals elsewhere only in the last decade. Carrix was family-owned until this past month, when it sold a 49 percent stake to investment firm Goldman Sachs.


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