West Coast seaports: PMSA concerned about “self-destructive behavior”

Just when the picture is brightening for U.S. West Coast ports, political pressure can kill the commercial recovery, said Pacific Merchant Shipping Association President John McLaurin.

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Just when the picture is brightening for U.S. West Coast ports, political pressure can kill the commercial recovery, said Pacific Merchant Shipping Association President John McLaurin. Speaking at last week’s annual meeting of the Agriculture Transportation Coalition in San Francisco, he noted that the revenues of Ports of LA/Long Beach are being siphoned by municipal governments, while the Port of Seattle is plagued by persistent labor issues.

“In the best of all worlds, especially now, all elements of the supply chain – including the ports - should be working in unison to attract more cargo,” said McLaurin. “Instead, we often find ourselves having to oppose port policies that are counterproductive to serving and attracting cargo. We have to fight the ports at harbor commission meetings, in the federal courts and the United States Congress.”

This “self-destructive behavior” by ports is not healthy or productive and threatens the dominance of West Coast ports, added McLaurin,  who noted that some ports have commissioners are out of touch with the international trade community and are not well informed about the ports’ core business or the competitive nature of the maritime industry.

“It is incredible to witness port commissions pushing political agendas that harm their own tenants and customers and which are contrary to their fiduciary responsibilities,” he said.

Meanwhile, both California and Washington are struggling to close massive budget deficits. California’s deficit is approximately $21 billion this year. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office is projecting budget deficits of more than $20 billion each year for the next five years. Not to be outdone, the State of Washington’s budget deficit was approximately $2.8 billion – which is proportionately larger than the budget deficit in California.

“In Los Angeles, instead of laying off thousands of city employees to balance the budget, the city has pushed unneeded city employees on to the port – along with the ongoing financial liability for their salaries, benefits and retirement,” said McLaurin. “Pacific Northwest ports are more fortunate given their independence from local cities. And the good news is that Seattle’s leftist mayor was voted out last fall.”

The bad news, said McLaurin, is the new mayor is to the left of the former leftist mayor – and he is trying to interject himself into port matters.


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 [email protected]

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