Washington State Port Mutual Aid Agreement Is Off and Running

It took more than five years to get accomplished, but it is finally in place and ready to be used.

Eric Holdeman, December 15, 2014, Emergencymgmt.com

Did I ever tell you I’m a movie guy? I much prefer watching a movie over a television series. In the last month or so I was able to watch (again) a 1999 movie, Galaxy Quest. One of the quotes from the movie is “Never give up, never surrender.”


I was reminded of this from finally seeing success come from a five-year effort to get an inter-port mutual aid agreement established here in Washington state. See: Ports of Seattle and Tacoma Agree on Inter-Port Disaster Mutual Aid


Below is a brief synopsis of how we finally got to today with the port mutual aid agreement established.


Neil Clement, emergency management and security officer for the Port of Bellingham, (mentioned in the news release) contacted me when I was the director of security for the Port of Tacoma and suggested that we take the Washington state Inter-county Mutual Aid Agreement that I had worked on years earlier and adapt it for ports.

I agreed. We discussed trying to make this a West Coast agreement, but figured we didn’t have the horsepower to make that happen.

Neil did the lion’s share of the work transforming the agreement and getting maritime language inserted.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the contributions of Kathy Gleaves, who was a Port of Seattle emergency manager (until her position was eliminated) and she worked on the agreement’s language, even after she had left the port. Note: She exemplifies what it means to be an emergency manager. It is not a job, position or title. It is a way of life. Something I’ll write more about for the April-May-June edition of Emergency Management.

In my current position with the Center for Regional Disaster Resilience, I was able to get the need for a port mutual aid agreement added as a deliverable to a supply chain resilience project we were working on for Seattle’s Regional Catastrophic Planning Team.

Two challenges remained. One being getting a legal review of the document. Since ports generally contract for legal services, no one wanted to expend their resources for a regional agreement benefiting all ports. Finally, Neil was able to get the approval and funding to have his port attorney review the document and make sure we crossed all the legal T’s, etc.

The last challenge was finding a sponsor, someone I call a champion, to push this agreement out of the starting gate. While on a tour of Canadian ports in July 2013, I was able to pitch the need for the agreement and our readiness to establish one for Washington state to Tom Albro, a Port of Seattle commissioner. He was the incoming Washington Public Ports Association (WPPA) president for 2014. Tom took the bull by the horns and using his position and influence got the WPPA to become a full partner in the agreement and the holder of signed agreements and the administrative functions that come with that.

Ginger Eagle, assistant director for WPPA, has been key in promoting the agreement and getting the administrative side of things set for them to supervise going forward.

The rest is history with 10 ports now signatories and more coming. On Thursday, I spoke with a representative from the Port of Olympia about its participation, which I’m sure will come.

All of the above was a long time coming. Never give up, never surrender!


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