The Northwest Seaport Alliance hits key milestone as ports of Seattle, Tacoma prepare to unify marine cargo management

Heralding a key milestone in the formation of a Seaport Alliance, a draft of the final agreement between the ports of Tacoma and Seattle has been released. 

The Northwest Seaport Alliance will unify the two ports’ marine cargo terminal investments, operations, planning and marketing to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo for the region.

“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,” said Don Johnson, Port of Tacoma commission president. 

The 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. 

“As the state’s two largest container ports, we recognize the value of trade to our state’s economy,” said Stephanie Bowman, Port of Seattle commission co-president. “We are stronger together as we forge a new business model to add jobs and create economic opportunities.” 

The agreement outlines The Northwest Seaport Alliance’s governance charter, management and financial structures, a transition plan and a business development strategy.

While the ports will remain separate organizations that retain ownership of their respective assets, they will form a port development authority (PDA) to manage the container, breakbulk, auto and some bulk terminals in Seattle and Tacoma. The airport, cruise business, marinas, such as Fisherman’s Terminal, grain terminals and industrial real estate, such as the Northwest Innovation Works and Puget Sound Energy facilities and Terminal 91 uplands, will remain outside the Alliance.

The PDA will be governed jointly by the two port commissions.

The commissioners expect to hire John Wolfe, current Port of Tacoma chief executive officer, as the CEO of the Seaport Alliance following the FMC’s 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 will continue to be updated regularly on the Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle websites. 

About the ports of Seattle and Tacoma

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.

Port of Tacoma
Tara Mattina
253-428-8674

Port of Seattle
Peter McGraw
206-787-3446