Ports of Seattle, Tacoma vote to submit final seaport alliance proposal to FMC

Taking another key step in forming The Northwest Seaport Alliance, commissioners from the ports of Tacoma and Seattle voted Friday to submit a final agreement to the Federal Maritime Commission for approval.

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.

“This agreement is the culmination of months of work to set aside decades of competition in creating a new business model for the greater good,” said Don Johnson, Port of Tacoma commission president. “We recognize how vital the maritime industry is to our state’s economy, and we are proud and excited to strengthen it even more.”

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

“With today’s vote our two ports take another step toward becoming a united cargo gateway that will compete globally for more trade,” said Stephanie Bowman, Port of Seattle commission co-president. “Our work continues as we help provide our region with the solid economic base it needs for the coming decades.”   

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 Northwest Seaport Alliance following the FMC’s approval of the agreement. Wolfe would lead both organizations through a transition period of up to five years.

Citizen and stakeholder public review of the agreement was undertaken throughout May, building on the extensive outreach that had occurred since the proposal was announced last October. The final agreement and other related news is available 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

Port of Seattle
Peter McGraw