October 07, 2014: The Seattle and Tacoma port commissions plan to unify the management of the two ports' marine cargo terminals and related functions under a single Seaport Alliance in order to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo for the region.
The Seaport Alliance will manage marine cargo terminal investments and operations, planning and marketing, while the individual port commissions will retain their existing governance structures and ownership of assets.
This unprecedented level of cooperation between the state's two largest container ports is a strategic response to the competitive pressures that are reshaping the global shipping industry.
Taken together, marine cargo operations at both ports support more than 48,000 jobs across the region and provide a critical gateway for the export of Washington state products to Asia.
"The ports of Seattle and Tacoma face fierce competition from ports throughout North America, as shipping lines form alliances, share space on ever-larger vessels and call at consolidated terminals at fewer ports," said Port of Tacoma Commission President Clare Petrich. "Working together, we can better focus on financially sustainable business models that support customer success and ensure our ability to reinvest in terminal assets and infrastructure."
"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 Seaport Alliance is the result of our shared commitment to maintaining the economic health of our region through a thriving maritime industry."
The Seaport Alliance is the outgrowth of talks held under the sanction and guidance of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the independent federal agency responsible for regulating the U.S. international ocean transportation system.
Subject to further FMC review and approval, the two port commissions will enter into an Interlocal Agreement (ILA), which is intended to provide the ports with a framework for a period of due diligence to examine business objectives, strategic marine terminal investments, financial returns, performance metrics, organizational structure, communications and public engagement. Following the due diligence period, the two port commissions intend to submit a more detailed agreement for the Seaport Alliance to the FMC by the end of March 2015.
During the due diligence period, John Wolfe, Port of Tacoma CEO, and Kurt Beckett, Port of Seattle Deputy CEO, will co-lead the planning work and coordinate with both port commissions. Commissioners from both ports expect to hold a public meeting next spring to hire Wolfe as the CEO of the Seaport Alliance following the FMC's approval of the agreement.
The two commissions expect to formally adopt and move to submit the ILA to the FMC at a joint public meeting Oct. 14.
Combined, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are the third-largest container gateway in North America. A recent analysis performed by Martin Associates estimates that the two ports' marine cargo operations supported more than 48,000 jobs, which generated nearly $4.3 billion in economic activity in 2013. If the farmers and manufacturers who ship products through the ports of Seattle and Tacoma are factored in, the ports' activities reach 443,000 jobs overall in Washington.