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Federal Maritime Regulator Says Tacoma And Seattle Port Alliance Is A `Great Idea’

Port of Tacoma

The cargo shipping industry is in the midst of big changes and that’s prompting the ports of Seattle and Tacoma to forge an alliance.

Federal Maritime Commission Chairman Mario Cordero, the top regulator of the nation's ports, says the alliance is a "great idea."

Global trade means a lot of stuff has to move around the world. So shipping companies are ordering bigger and bigger vessels to move all these containers, forcing ports to invest in new cranes and other improvements to the terminals.

"Many of these ports don’t have the wherewithal to do it alone," Cordero said. He spoke in Seattle at a forum sponsored by the law firm Foster Pepper and Washington Council on International Trade. 

Cordero indicated the seaport alliance between Tacoma and Seattle is likely to get the green light from his agency. Initially, the alliance would seek to jointly run the marine cargo terminals and market to customers together. 

"The need for ports to collaborate now is so important," Cordero said. "So I think it’s a great model in terms of how ports are going to be working together."

Competitive pressures are also driving the alliance between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma. Traffic to Canadian ports has been growing because they have good rail connections to the Midwest and they’re closer to Asia.

For example, according to the web site, it takes 13 days, 18 hours, to sail 8,563 kilometers from Shanghai to Prince Rupert, British Columbia. By comparison, it takes 15 days, one hour, to sail 9,376 kilometers from Shanghai to Seattle. 

The joint commission of the two ports is scheduled to vote on a draft alliance agreement on June 5th.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.