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Rail car shortage blunts Puget Sound ports’ comeback bid

From Bloomberg:

BNSF rail cars Bakken oil

In the U.S., shippers of grain, coal and other commodities have told regulators of poor service from BNSF, owned by Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board in June ordered railroads to report plans for resolving the backlogs.

Seattle and Tacoma are being stymied in their push to regain market share from Canada as railcars destined for the harbors sit idle on tracks across the U.S. Pacific Northwest.

Even as the ports, on Washington’s Puget Sound, agreed to consolidate some operations after a century of competition, 40- fold growth in shipments of crude from the Bakken oil fields is straining the region’s main railroad company, BNSF Railway Co., causing delays that have helped shift traffic to less congested harbors in Canada. In September, as many as 150 grain cars piled up in nearby rail yards, said Dale Frazier, manager of Seattle Bulk Shipping Inc.

The jams, part of nationwide bottlenecks that have led to complaints from farmers and scrutiny from federal regulators, are complicating the ports’ efforts to reverse losses in market share to Canadian harbors that have developed more modern infrastructure for rail shipments.

More at Bloomberg


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