Wolfe would keep Port of Tacoma job under ports alliance staffing plan

John Gillie, April 15, 2015, The News Tribune

A new tentative staffing scheme for a planned shipping alliance between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle would allow Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe to retain his Tacoma title while assuming command of the new alliance.


Wolfe would wear two administrative hats for up to five years under the proposed organizational arrangement presented to the governing commissions of the two ports Tuesday at a joint meeting in Tacoma. His compensation under this plan is still to be determined. Now, as CEO of just the Port of Tacoma, he draws an annual salary of $257,088.


Both commissions have said they intend to name Wolfe as the alliance’s first chief executive when the alliance begins functioning this summer.


Port of Tacoma commissioners said they want Wolfe to remain in his Tacoma job while also heading the alliance because the port has already begun several major projects, such as the upgrading of Terminals 3 and 4 to handle megaships and a $1 billion-plus construction of a methanol plant at the upper end of the port’s Blair Waterway. Wolfe’s continued leadership at the port would ensure that those projects are finished in a timely manner.


The port itself is undertaking the Terminal 3 and 4 upgrades, while a Chinese-American company is planning the methanol plant construction.


The plan to allow Wolfe to perform the two jobs simultaneously was part of the evolving blueprint for the shipping alliance that the two ports rolled out in part Tuesday.


That plan would allow a single entity, the yet-unnamed alliance, to operate and market the two ports’ marine shipping facilities. Those facilities would include the ports’ container, bulk, breakbulk and auto terminals. It would not include Seattle’s cruise ship operations, Sea-Tac Airport, or either port’s industrial lands, marinas and fishing fleet facilities.


Each port would assign specific facilities to the alliance for it to manage, with any profits split equally. The two ports would retain ownership of those facilities.


The two ports as well as their port commissions working in private have been working out the details of the alliance for months. The two ports expect to have a draft overall plan for the alliance ready for public comment about May 1, said Kurt Beckett, the Port of Seattle’s deputy chief executive officer. The ports are planning a series of public hearings during May to discuss their plans publicly.


Port of Tacoma Commissioner Don Meyer urged both commissions to act expeditiously to implement the staffing plan and to meet with port employees to inform them of the plan for staffing the alliance. Under the present plan, some employees from both ports may become employees of the alliance itself.


The ports are forming the alliance because they’re concerned that the Pacific Northwest is losing market share in the container shipping business because of mergers and combinations among shipping lines, the advent of megaships carrying up to nearly 20,000 container units, and heightened competition from Canadian ports and U.S. ports in Southern California and on the East and Gulf coasts.


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