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Jon Talton

Analysis and commentary on economic news, trends and issues, with an emphasis on Seattle and the Northwest.

June 18, 2014 at 10:37 AM

Where are the ports headed?

By my count (and I may be off), Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma commissioners have held three confidential meetings since they received federal permission to share information. I’d love to be a fly on the wall. We know what won’t happen, a consolidation — Tacoma and Pierce County would never allow it.

Here are  few of the moving pieces: Tacoma is strictly focused on its seaport while Seattle has the seaport and Seattle-Tacoma International Airport; Seattle has consistently underestimated Tacoma’s formidable but soft-spoken Chief Executive John Wolfe, and this hasn’t helped as Tacoma has taken a big chunk of Seattle’s container traffic; Tacoma benefits from wide public support among Pierce County voters for the port, while most voters in King County go, “huh?” despite the continuing importance of maritime here.

Both are natural deepwater ports close to Asia. But the Puget Sound ports have been losing market share as LA/Long Beach continue to invest heavily in their megaports, Vancouver, B.C. remains a potent rival, and Prince Rupert, B.C., has built its container capacity with a mainline railroad to the American Midwest thanks to big assists from the Canadian and provincial governments. Oh, the wider Panama Canal — it will allow more traffic to go directly from Asia to the Gulf and East coasts.

It’s also interesting that Seattle port CEO Tay Yoshitani is staying on beyond his June retirement date, now at least through Sept. 30.

I have no inside dope. But I wonder if the Seattle port commission might turn over the seaport operations here to the Port of Tacoma? Whether it is a good idea or not is another column.

Wednesday Reading: Are baby boomers really keeping millennials from finding work? | CityLab

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Yellen’s dilemma

Can the Fed fix joblessness?

Dismal science, yes

Comments | More in Ports of Seattle and Tacoma

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