Exit133 is about Tacoma
What Lies Ahead for the Ports of Tacoma and Seattle?
We read a piece over the weekend from the Seattle Times’ Jon Talton that gave us pause for thought.
Talton’s title sets out his premise pretty clearly: “Rivalry between Seattle and Tacoma ports historic, detrimental.” He lays out the history of the Tacoma-Seattle rivalry, a familiar story beginning with the competition to be the western terminus of the Northern Pacific, through the booms of port and rail in both cities, to the current day, with the two cities still competing for the same traffic. Both have ambitious growth plans for the future; the Port of Tacoma just rolled out its new 10-year strategic plan, and Seattle has its own “Century Agenda” goal for container traffic. The Port of Seattle still claims more freight moved than Tacoma, but Tacoma has advantages in potential capacity and proximity to rail, without the use of short-haul truckers, which has become an issue for Seattle.
The argument Talton makes is not a new one, but perhaps it is worth reconsideration: perhaps collaboration, rather than competition would be more advantageous for both ports in the face of global and national trends and events. The Panama Canal will soon be open to larger ships, giving freight bound for the East Coast another option. Canadian ports, subsidized by the government, are making moves to become more competitive in getting goods to the American Midwest. California ports, which may be easier to reach are also making plans to invest for expansion and growth. And general prevailing economic trends aren’t helping much.
Tacoma recently scored a big contract with the Grand Alliance shipping company from Seattle, which was good news locally, ambivalent news regionally, and not really much news further than that. Talton concedes that a regional Seattle-Tacoma Port Authority isn’t likely to be much of a go politically, but concludes with a hope that the two can find a way to deal with each other that can be productive, rather than a race to the bottom.
The ports of Seattle and Tacoma are run by smart people who understand the threat and the stakes.
The question is whether they can move beyond a natural rivalry to effectively take on the real competition.
That is a good question. We also have to wonder if Port has any back room, back of their mind planning for a Plan B (or C or D…) in case growth in container traffic just isn’t happening.
As a complete sidebar, we got a chuckle out of this little paragraph from Talton:
Tacoma embraces its industrial identity. People wear T-shirts that say, “Gritty Tacoman.” As opposed to, say, a latte-quaffing, effete Seattleite. This translates into strong backing for the seaport.
Read Jon Talton’s much more detailed assessment of the situation in the Seattle Times.
Do you want to help the folks at Exit133 pay our bills and keep up with of all things Tacoma? Do you want to see even more coverage? Exit133 has always been free to read and comment, and it will stay that way. However, over the years, readers have contributed to the bank account to help us keep up our coverage of goings-on around town. Contribute and this message disappears!Support Exit133