Tacoma, Seattle ports announce Seaport Alliance

Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle officials announced Tuesday they 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 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.”

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.

“Where we were once rivals, we now intend to be partners,” said Port of Seattle Commission co-President Stephanie Bowman. “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, Port of Tacoma CEO John Wolfe and Port of Seattle Deputy CEO Kurt Beckett 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 on Tues., Oct. 14. Citizen and stakeholder public review of this proposal will be undertaken throughout the due diligence period. Information about public meetings, how to submit written comments, and other related news will be regularly updated on the Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle Web sites.

Port of Seattle Commission co-President Stephanie Bowman (left) and Port of Tacoma Commission President Clare Petrich (right) discuss details of an announcement made Tuesday that the two ports plan to create a Seaport Alliance in an effort to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo for the region. (PHOTO COURTESY PORT OF SEATTLE)

Port of Seattle Commission co-President Stephanie Bowman (left) and Port of Tacoma Commission President Clare Petrich (right) discuss details of an announcement made Tuesday that the two ports plan to create a Seaport Alliance in an effort to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo for the region. (PHOTO COURTESY PORT OF SEATTLE)

Additional Information

  • Read the official Port of Tacoma and Port of Seattle news release online here.
  • Review the Interlocal Agreement and FMC Letter online here.
  • Download a FAQ sheet online here.
  • View a video of Port of Tacoma Commission President Clare Petrich and Port of Seattle Commission co-President Stephanie Bowman making the official announcement online here.
  • Share your feedback online here and here.

UPDATE | Tues., Oct. 7 @ 3:26 p.m. – Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy issued the following statement regarding the Seaport Alliance announcement:

“The ports of Tacoma and Seattle are key drivers for our local and regional economies, and they face intense competition from other North American ports. Our regional success is contingent upon thriving ports — both of them. I’m cautiously optimistic that this alliance will be a step toward improved economic prosperity for the region, though I am highly interested in the details that remain to be worked out.”