February 4, 2014 11:40 AM, EST
Wash. Ports Ask FMC to Allow Discussions of Rates, Operations
Port of Tacoma

Officials at the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, Wash., have filed a request with the Federal Maritime Commission for a “discussion agreement” that would allow them to talk about rates and operations, which is usually prohibited under antitrust regulations.

The agreement would allow the ports, “with appropriate legal oversight, to share information about their respective operations, facilities and rates,” they said in a joint statement.

Their application to the Federal Maritime Commission was posted in a Jan. 29 Federal Register notice.

Seattle and Tacoma “face fierce competition from ports throughout North America and must adjust to shifts in the global maritime industry,” the statement said.

“Global shipping lines, continuing to lose millions of dollars each year, are investing in larger vessels with more capacity, sharing those vessels, consolidating terminals and reducing the number of ports at which they call,” the ports said.

Seattle handled about 1.9 million 20-foot equivalent units in 2012, while Tacoma handled about 1.7 million TEUs, according to the American Association of Port Authorities.

The two are in the top 10 U.S. ports in terms of cargo handling, with Seattle ranking eighth and Tacoma ninth, AAPA figures showed.

The Federal Maritime Commission, an independent government agency, reviews and monitors agreements among ocean carriers and marine terminal operators to ensure that they do not cause substantial increases in transportation costs or decreases in transportation services.