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In the intensely competitive business of handling international cargo, it's vital to know what the competition is up to.
The Puget Sound's competition is up to a lot - spending millions to hone its competitive edge.
Measured by the volume of container cargo traffic, Seattle-Tacoma is the second-largest load center in the Western Hemisphere. Los Angeles-Long Beach holds the No. 1 slot - and is working hard to improve its position.
In the 1990s, California's twin ports have gained West Coast market share, and since 1985 they have been working to further their lead with the $1.9 billion Alameda Corridor freight mobility project.
Reflecting concern that the Corridor might offset this region's one-day edge sailing to Asia, a delegation of 60 Puget Sound-area leaders recently journeyed to Southern California to see the ports and the project first-hand.
The group included state and local officials, and industry members from transportation, engineering and urban development sectors. King County Executive Ron Sims co-chaired the trip with Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce president Bob Watt.
The visit gave cause to be both alarmed and relieved.
First, there's the size of the Southland ports. Built on artificial islands, the new 300 and 400 terminals at the Port of Los Angeles will be larger than Seattle and Tacoma ports combined.
In financial heft, the Port of Long Beach profits exceed the Port of Tacoma's budget. The latest complete data (1995) shows traffic through L.A.-Long Beach of nearly 5.4 million 24-foot containers (TEUs). That's more than double Seattle-Tacoma's volume of almost 2.6 million.
Worldwide, the San Pedro Bay port complex is third in container cargo activity while Puget Sound's twin ports rank 10th.
Landings at San Pedro …