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Ports of Seattle/Tacoma take off the gloves

By Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
March 13, 2012

“Regional cooperation” was gaining traction as a marketing tool for U.S. seaports seeking to aggregate vessel calls in the past. But a recent development suggests that it may have been just so much happy talk.

When The Grand Alliance – a shipping consortium comprising Hapag-Lloyd, NYK, and OOCL – announced that it plans to move operations from the Port of Seattle to neighboring Tacoma later this year, there came a howl of protest.

“It is important that the business remains in Washington,” said Port of Seattle spokesmen. “Unfortunately, though many of the jobs will be preserved, others may not.  Some who work in the Seattle harbor could see their livelihood impacted severely or in some cases, disappear.”

Lost in this observation, however, is the fact that just three years ago Seattle lured Maersk and CMC-CGM away from Tacoma.

LM readers may also recall that civil and labor unrest at the Port of Seattle has been disruptive of late. With the “occupy movement” staging demonstrations, and the Teamsters organizing efforts, there’s reason to believe that Tacoma represents a safer haven for unfettered terminal operations.

The gloves seem to be off, in any case, as the two Puget Sound ocean cargo gateways focus more of their concentration on competing with one another rather than West Coast rivals.

There is some truth to the fact, however, that Seattle’s seaport infrastructure represents over $1 billion in investment. One might still agree that the best way to ensure that both ports work for the entire state is to recruit new cargo on a regional basis. 

“By trading customers,” Seattle spokesmen point out, “we encourage a downward competitive cycle that endangers our ability to invest in the infrastructure we need to support the import and export trade our state depends on.”

About the Author

Patrick Burnson
Executive Editor

Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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