Sarah Aitchison, October 7, 2014, Puget Sound Business Journal
The Ports of Tacoma and Seattle announced Tuesday they would join forces to create a Seaport Alliance that will manage their cargo terminals.
Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe is expected to be the chief executive of the unified maritime port when the alliance becomes official next spring.
Washington’s two largest container ports have been competitors for decades, but increasing competition from other ports and consolidation of shipping sparked the decision to combine efforts in a bid to retain Washington state’s status as a major world import-export center.
“Where we were once rivals, we now intend to be partners,” said Stephanie Bowman, co-president of the Port of Seattle Commission. “Instead of competing against one another, we are combining our strengths to create the strongest maritime gateway in North America.”
The Port of Seattle will continue to run Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, as well as terminals for the fishing fleet and private pleasure boats.
Together, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are the third-largest container gateway in North America, responsible for more than 48,000 local jobs in 2013.
While Wolfe will manage the alliance, the two port commissions will keep their assets and structures. But the Seaport Alliance would manage terminal investments, operations, planning and marketing. How they will divide up profits has yet to be decided.
The move is in response to global competition. The expansion of Canada’s container ports and the enlargement of the Panama Canal are among the trends making it easier for ships to to bypass the Puget Sound ports.
So far, the proposal has received praise from local legislators.
Congressman Jim McDermott, D-Wash., and Maud Daudon, president of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, both released statements supporting the decision.
“I applaud the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma commissioners for identifying the challenges to their future success and embracing a new management model for the seaports that will significantly strengthen our region’s competitive position,” said Daudon. “It’s precisely the kind of leadership we need to replicate on transportation, education and other issues that are essential to our ability to compete globally.”
The two ports would be required to present a detailed agreement to the Federal Maritime Commission in March.
There will be a public meeting on the proposal Oct. 14, when the two commissions will formally adopt and submit the preliminary agreement.