Port of Seattle to retain control of fishing, cruise operations in post-Seaport Alliance era

Steve Wilhelm, February 26, 2015, Puget Sound Business Journal

The Port of Seattle will still have its foot in the water, but just not on any cargo ships.

That’s because the port is splitting its cargo and non-cargo maritime operations in two, handing over cargo operations to the newly formed Seaport Alliance and retaining control of all the non-cargo operations, such as cruise ships and fishing vessels.

Port of Seattle CEO Ted Fick this week proposed creating a new Maritime Division, which will oversee all non-cargo maritime operations for the port.

Future cargo operations are to be managed by the planned Seaport Alliance, a new entity coordinating the marine terminal operations and investments of the ports of Seattle and Tacoma.

That Seaport Alliance was formally approved by both commissions in November.

Cargo movements have been top of mind in recent months, as the contract dispute between union dock workers and terminal and ship operators dragged on. With the resolution, cargo is moving again, and the backup at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma is expected to clear up rather rapidly.

While the ports keep a low profile in such disputes, creation of a unified entity representing the state’s two largest ports may help with political pressure behind the scenes. Political unity to help win funding for projects, such as highway freight routes, was one of the arguments for the creation of the Seaport Alliance.

The new Port of Seattle Maritime Division will still oversee a wide and financially significant array of other non-cargo water-borne activities. These will include cruise ships, seafood industry facilities such as Fishermen’s Terminal, and the large Shilshole Marina facility, which supports recreational boating.

The new Maritime Division will allow more local maritime operations to still remain under more local control, while regional barriers that have hampered the competitiveness of the cargo terminals can be diminished.

The Seaport Alliance is to be run by Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe, and is intended to help both ports better compete against other faster-growing cargo portals, especially British Columbia and Southern California ports.


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