Tuesday, May 12, 2015

PNW Ports Unveil Seaport Alliance Details

By Mark Edward Nero

A draft version of the Seaports Alliance agreement between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle has been released, with both ports calling it a “key milestone” in the agreement’s formation.

The draft, which was released May 7, outlines The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s governance charter, management and financial structures, a transition plan and a business development strategy.

If approved by federal officials, the Northwest Seaport Alliance would unify the two ports’ marine cargo terminal investments, operations, planning and marketing in order to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo to the region. “As the state’s two largest container ports, we recognize the value of trade to our state’s economy,” Port of Seattle Commission Co-President Stephanie Bowman said. “We are stronger together as we forge a new business model to add jobs and create economic opportunities.”

The Alliance is the outgrowth of talks held under the sanction and guidance of the Federal Maritime Commission, the independent federal agency responsible for regulating the U.S. international ocean transportation system.

While the ports would remain separate organizations that retain ownership of their respective assets, they would form a port development authority to manage the container, breakbulk, auto and some bulk terminals in Seattle and Tacoma.

However, the airport, cruise business, marinas, such as Fisherman’s Terminal, grain terminals and industrial real estate, like the Northwest Innovation Works and Puget Sound Energy facilities and Terminal 91 uplands, are expected to remain outside the Alliance.

The port development authority is to be jointly governed by the two port commissions.

“We intend to make our organizations stronger and more sustainable to better serve our customers, grow our regional economy and address unprecedented competition facing the shipping industry,” Port of Tacoma Commission President Don Johnson said.

The commissioners expect to hire John Wolfe, current Port of Tacoma chief executive officer, as the CEO of the Seaport Alliance following the Federal Maritime Commission’s expected approval of the agreement. Wolfe would lead both organizations through a transition period of up to five years before handing over his Port of Tacoma duties.

The two port commissions expect to consider submitting the final agreement to the Federal Maritime Commission at a joint public meeting June 5 at Auburn City Hall. Citizen and stakeholder public review of this agreement will be undertaken throughout May, building on the extensive outreach that has occurred since the proposal was announced last October. The draft agreement, information about public meetings, how to submit written comments and other related news are available on the Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle websites.