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Jon Talton

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

October 1, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Big foot: The combined power of two ports

The Port of Seattle seen from Harbor Island. (Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times, 2012)

The Port of Seattle seen from Harbor Island. (Photo by Mike Siegel / The Seattle Times, 2012)

On Tuesday, something remarkable happened. Commissioners of the Port of Seattle and the Port of Tacoma met together in a public session. The governing bodies of these two highly competitive ports have been gathering in closed meetings lately to discuss how to work together, as opposed to the toxic competition that has marked their relationship in the past. Now it’s in the open and that’s healthy.

Tuesday’s meeting saw the unveiling of a new report by Martin Associates that looked at the combined power of the Puget Sound’s biggest ports. Together, they

  • Rank third among North American ports in total container traffic as measured by TEUs.
  • Were the fourth-largest port by export value in 2013
  • $77 billion worth of goods were exported and imported through the ports.
  • They are connected with statewide economic activity of more than $138 billion, about one-third of Washington’s gross domestic product
  • They account for $379 million in state and local taxes
  • A total of 48,100 direct, indirect and induced jobs are sustained by the ports.

The report detailed challenges that will be familiar to regular readers here: Shipping line consolidation, larger ships, competition from other ports and the wider Panama and Suez canals. And also the need for infrastructure spending with the heft and focus of LA/Long Beach and Prince Rupert. Also, the ports have been losing market share.

Nobody is saying where this cooperation might lead. At the least, it should have Seattle and Tacoma working together to grow business rather than steal pieces of a dwindling pie from each other. I keep wondering if Seattle will work out a face-saving agreement to have the Port of Tacoma essentially run the cargo elements of its seaport.

A huge challenge continues to be a state Legislature that won’t pass a transportation bill that improves logistics corridors, especially State Route 167. Will lawmakers pay attention to the needs of this economic Big Foot? They can read the entire report here. So can you.


Midweek Reading: How private debt strangles growth, stokes financial crises and increases inequality | Naked Capitalism


 

Today’s Econ Haiku:

Inflection alert

So what happens in Hong Kong

Won’t stay in Hong Kong


 

 

 

Comments | More in Ports of Seattle and Tacoma

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