Rail Lines Keep Economy Rolling
Infrastructure is my business at the Florida Chamber of Commerce. It is one of the Florida Chamber’s six pillars for the state’s economic future, and I see each day how a robust transportation system can attract businesses, advance growth and create jobs.
Among this important network of trucks, barges, trains and planes, Florida’s freight railroads distinguish themselves on infrastructure because they’re paying to maintain and enhance their lines with little help from taxpayers. Freight rail is injecting billions of private dollars — $25 billion annually for the past several years — into the nationwide network that hauls finished products to our ports, raw materials to our manufacturers and goods to our customers.
A new report from Towson University in Maryland quantified the impact from freight rail investments, finding that spending by the largest U.S. railroads created $274 billion in economic activity and generated nearly $33 billion in total tax revenues in 2014.
The cascading effect of these investments is hard to overstate. Enhanced rail operations in Florida, not to mention the rest of the country, mean that our ports can move more imports and exports and meet the increased demand of an expanded Panama Canal. Port Tampa Bay, for example, is continuing to invest in rail connectivity as part of a long-range development plan that aims to bulk up its presence in the container market.
Smart policies have allowed companies to make significant private investments in our state’s all-important transportation network. Florida needs to keep these good policies, and others like them, rolling.
Christopher Emmanuel, Tallahassee
The writer is director of infrastructure and governance policy with the Florida Chamber of Commerce.
Published in the Tampa Bay Times, July 12, 2016
The Promise of the Panama Canal
According to Francisco J. Miguez, Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration at the Panama Canal Authority, the Panama Canal locks –now an estimated 96 percent complete— are expected to be ready early in the second half of 2016.
The Impact to Florida: Will There be a Shift?
The impact of the Panama Canal expansion project on U.S. East Coast and West Coast ports is still to be determined, as there are many factors that impact international trade flows.
According to Miguez, container volume from Northeast Asia to the U.S. East Coast now is practically equally divided between the Panama Canal, Suez Canal and intermodal rail.
U.S. Commercial decisions generate two-thirds of the traffic which impact cargo routing such as transit times and costs. The transit time from North Asia to the East Coast is slightly shorter via the Panama Canal than through the Suez — so some of the cargo that comes from that area is expected to shift from the Suez to the Panama Canal.
Intermodal rail is also an important factor. If western railways seek to aggressively retain market share, they have the ability to reduce costs to retain business and remain competitive. What is also yet to be seen are the costs to transit the Panama Canal as well as how the Suez Canal adjusts tolls.
Reliability continues to remain an important factor. The labor issues at West Coast ports remain fresh in the minds of many retailers and the reputation of West Coast ports took a serious hit.
What This Means For Florida:
There are still too many factors to say with any certainty what will happen. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s first Trade and Logistics study appropriately issued a call to action: the Panama Canal is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to capture West Coast bound cargo. Florida has certainly headed the call and has made unprecedented investments to be ready. The multiple construction delays for the Panama Canal have favored our state, as has the West Coast port shut down.
Florida ports are in the race and our transportation networks stand ready to prove that we have capacity and are competitive and reliable. It will be a gradual shift, but over time, we stand to win.
The New Suez Canal
With 90 percent of the world’s trade moving by sea, the expanded Suez Canal will be a game changer.
- $8 billion, 44.7 mile extension to the Suez Canal will for the first time allow two-way traffic on the canal
- The new channel allows for a reduction in transit times from 18 to 11 hours
- Provides increased capacity for vessels with drafts over 45 feet (prior to the opening of the new channel, only eight vessels with drafts greater than 45 feet could be accommodated on the canal at any one time)
- The extension to the canal has seen 72 kilometers (44.7 miles) of new canal created, parallel to the current channel. The projected included 35 kilometers (21.7 miles)of dry digging and 37 kilometers (23 miles) of deepening
- The average size of ships on the Far East-U.S. East Coast route via the Suez Canal has increased by 73 percent since 2005 to 7,800 twenty-foot-equivalent units, while vessels on the same trade via the Panama Canal have grown by only 12 percent in capacity to 4,600 TEUs due to size restrictions.
What Does This Mean for the East Coast and Florida?
The Suez Canal has benefited from delays to the Panama Canal expansion as a number of carriers with larger ships in excess of 8,000 TEU ships, have taken advantage of the larger capacities the Suez Canal and have switched to this route. For a brief period during the U.S. West Coast ports disruption, the ratio of Asia-U.S. East Coast through the Suez surpassed those via the Panama Canal. That ratio is now slightly back in Panama’s favor as carriers are preparing for the opening of an expanded Panama Canal.
The Asia-U.S. East Coast route is undergoing a period of dramatic changes based on strong eastbound demand, Beneficial Cargo Owners (BCOs) lack of confidence in West Coast ports, a changed shipping alliance structure and new services have helped boost the Suez route. Drewry, a specialist research and advisory organization for the maritime sector, estimates that extent of cargo shift from the west to east coasts was at 375,000 TEUs between January and June and shows no sign of reducing. U.S. east coast ports have proven to be able to absorb this additional volume with minor disruptions.
The expanded Suez Canal and look forward to continuing to increase its service to the U.S. East coast market, but the degree to which it will increase service will depend on macro events such as how competitive it will remain against an open and expanded Panama Canal in April, Chinese export growth and South East Asian export growth to name a few.
A Tale of Two Canals
The opening of these two expanded Canals within a year of each other will deepen the rivalry between the two, particularly for services connecting Asia with the U.S. East Coast, which is now intensified in light of West Coast – East Coast cargo shift. This is the route where the two canals are in in direct competition with each other.
The new expanded Panama locks, which are due to open in April 2016, will further the rivalry as trade may shift back in favor of an expanded Panama Canal. The Panama Canal’s decision to temporarily reduce its draft from September 8 due to the draught caused by El Nino is not expected to have any significant impact on Far East-U.S. East Coast services, as it will affect less than 20 percent of the transits.
The average size of ships on the Far East-U.S. East Coast route via the Suez Canal has increased by 73 percent since 2005 to 7,800 twenty-foot-equivalent units, while vessels on the same trade via the Panama Canal have only increased by 12 percent in capacity to 4,600 TEUs due to size restrictions.
The opening of the new Panama locks will allow carriers to transit larger ships through the Panama Canal which will position it to recapture some market share lost the Suez Canal since 2008.
The Panama Canal’s share of the Far East-U.S. East Coast trade has decreased from approximately 90 percent before 2008 to a low of 48 percent in 2014 before recovering to 51 percent currently as a result of the recent launch of five new shipping services.
The Panama Canal’s share is expected to increase to over 70 percent by the end of 2016 as most of the Suez market share from China will likely return to the shorter Panama Canal route. Trade from South East Asia is expected to preserve the Suez Canal route as that is the shorter route to the U.S. East Coast.
What Does This Mean for Florida?
The West Coast-East Coast cargo shift occurred earlier than anticipated due to the west coast port disruptions and delays in the opening of an expanded Panama Canal. The Suez Canal has grown in importance to the U.S. East Coast as manufacturing shifts from China to South East Asia have boosted trade to the U.S. via this shorter route. Florida ports have captured some of this shift but opportunities remain to capture more. An expanded Panama Canal will rebalance Asian trade bound for the East Coast in its favor. Florida will have the first U.S. port of entry at 50 ft depth to receive the larger ships by the time the Panama Canal opens. Our ability to capture this trade and demonstrate the strength of our connectivity due to our intermodal investments to increase capacity and connectivity to the larger U.S. market will be crucial to this effort.
Florida ports have experienced cargo growth since the West Coast Ports shut down, as shown in the below news articles:
- Containerized cargo shipments through PortMiami increased 12 percent during the first six months of fiscal 2015.
- Port Everglades’ containerized cargo up 8 percent during half-year
- Diversion from the West Coast Ports drove some of the 20 percent year-over-year gain in Asian traffic that Jaxport saw last year
The above are just a few recent headlines. In order for Florida to continue to remain competitive, continued investment in ports, transportation and logistical infrastructure is key for Florida to remain competitive.
THERE ARE SEVERAL WAYS TO GET INVOLVED:
- Join our legislative “Fly-In” in Washington, D.C. on September 9-10 and lend your voice to our advocacy efforts at the Federal level for these strategic investments in Florida’s future.
- Register today and share your voice with Florida’s transportation infrastructure leaders at the Florida Chamber’s Transportation Summit in December.
- Download and share the Florida Chamber Foundation’s most recent Trade and Logistics study.
Global Markets Create New Opportunities for Florida’s Economy
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Edie Ousley, 850-521-1231 or 850-251-6261
Trade with Asia Pacific, Middle East/Africa
Accounts for 19 Percent of Florida-Origin Exports
TALLAHASSEE, FL. (May 20, 2015) – Emerging markets in Asia-Pacific and Middle East/Africa provide Florida with incredible opportunity, with 19 percent of Florida origin exports shipped to these regions, the Florida Chamber of Commerce announced today.
“Florida is the gateway to international trade and our state is in a position where we can really take advantage of strong international relationships,” said John Walsh, CEO and Port Director of Canaveral Port Authority. “Emerging economies such as those in Asia, the Middle East and Africa really provide a unique opportunity for Florida to lead the nation in trade and logistics, manufacturing and more. At Port Canaveral, our ability to use highway, rail and air resources for distribution and logistics helps keep Florida a leader in international trade and logistics efforts.”
It’s these resources that allow Florida to take advantage of the opportunities emerging markets represent. Middle Eastern and North African economies (known as the MENA region) are one of the largest emerging market economic blocs. In fact, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) forecasts that it will be the third fastest-growing region in the world over the next five years. The MENA region has one of the youngest populations in the world, helping to create a vibrant and energetic start-up culture. In Africa, this younger generation is also better educated and ready to meet the demands of global business.
The Middle East will be one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets during the next 20 years with an extra 237 million passengers flying to, from and within the region. A report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicts the UAE aviation market will lead the region with average annual growth of 5.6 percent.
The impact of international trade to Florida’s economy cannot be denied.
- International business and foreign direct investment accounts for approximately 17 percent of Florida’s economic activity, and
- Directly supports more than 1 million Florida jobs.
- Florida is the seventh largest exporter of state-origin products with Florida-origin exports totaling more than $58.6 billion and exports from Florida supporting 275,221 U.S. jobs in 2013.
“Florida is in a unique position to take advantage of growing global economies,” said Alice Ancona, Director of Global Outreach for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. “Japan is one of Florida’s leading investors. Hong Kong alone represents $2.4 billion in Florida origin exports, with more than $653 million in high tech exports. Florida has a once in a lifetime opportunity to capitalize on the Panama Canal expansion and changing trade become the global hub for international trade.”
The Florida Chamber’s Global Florida Program’s mission is to educate and promote business opportunities, collaborate and advance policy initiatives in each of the four major geographic regions: Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and Middle East/Africa. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam recently sponsored the Florida World Trade Month resolution, which was signed by Governor Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and CFO Jeff Atwater.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce is the voice of business and the state’s largest federation of employers, chambers of commerce and associations, aggressively representing small and large businesses from every industry and every region. The Florida Chamber works within all branches of government to affect those changes set forth in the annual Florida Business Agenda, and which are seen as critical to secure Florida’s future. The Florida Chamber works closely with its Political Operations and the Florida Chamber Foundation. Visit www.FloridaChamber.com for more information.
Did You Know Florida Exports $1.1 Billion in Goods to Panama?
Did You Know?
From 2008 to 2010, $1.1 billion in Florida goods were exported to Panama? In addition, Florida is home to more than 60,000 exporting companies, meaning one out of every five of the nation’s exporters are located in Florida
The Florida Chamber of Commerce is currently visiting business leaders in Panama to strengthen our trade relationship and further drive our state to becoming the global hub for trade to and from the U.S.
Joined by Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope, Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, and several Florida Chamber partners, we are actively advocating to become a global leader in international trade.
Representatives from the Florida Chamber and Enterprise Florida tour Gatún Locks at the Panama Canal.
Pictured from left-to-right: Florida Chamber Executive V.P. David Hart, Enterprise Florida V.P. of Trade Development Services Ivan Barrios, Enterprise Florida Senior V.P. of International Trade and Development Manny Mencia, Florida Chamber Director of Global Outreach Alice Ancona and Florida Secretary of Commerce and Enterprise Florida President and CEO Gray Swoope.
With the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Free Trade Agreement, Panama presents Florida companies with tremendous opportunities. Post-Panamax vessels are nearly three times the size as current vessels being used. Florida is poised to have the first port south of Virginia, PortMiami, which can receive the post-Panamax ships that will be coming from Asia through the Canal. Florida’s gateways are better prepared at being able to facilitate the trade relationship between Florida and Panama.
Florida’s 15 deep-water seaports are well-positioned to lead the way to attract new international trade and commerce. Thanks to unprecedented support from the Florida Legislature, our ports can boast state-of-the-art infrastructure investments and increased connectivity from strategic projects such as on-dock rail and intermodal container transfer facilities. These new opportunities are outlined in the Florida Chamber Foundation’s Florida Trade & Logistics 2.0 Study, which offers recommendations that will help fuel Florida’s competitive growth.
But realizing our state’s global potential requires vision.
“As the global marketplace doubles in size over the next 20 years, we ignore the importance of international trade at our own demise,” said Doug Davidson, Market Executive at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Chair of the Florida Chamber’s Trade & Logistics Institute. “We have to continue to shed light on the opportunities, and with leadership from the business community, policy makers, and organizations like the Florida Chamber Foundation through their Florida Trade & Logistics 2.0 Study, we can secure tens of thousands of high-wage jobs and guarantee that our state is globally competitive in 2030 and beyond.”
Team Florida Prepares For Economic Mission Trip to Panama
Global trade is now, more than ever, at the forefront of Florida’s recovering economy. we cannot deny that global trade is big business in Florida. Global trade means high-wage jobs and economic prosperity for Florida. The Sunshine State is home to more than 60,000 firms dedicated to bringing their goods and services to consumers around the globe. International business and foreign direct investment accounts for approximately 17 percent of Florida’s economic activity, and directly supports more than one million Florida jobs.
Solidifying Florida’s position as a global hub for trade is a key strategic initiative of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. Florida has long been an important consumer market and a gateway for trade between the United States and Latin American and Caribbean nations.
With the expansion of the Panama Canal and the Free Trade Agreement, Panama presents Florida companies tremendous opportunities. The Florida Chamber Foundation’s original Trade and Logistics Study (2010), identified the Panama Canal expansion as a seminal moment and called for our state to take advantage of this once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in ports and infrastructure. Governor Rick Scott and the legislature stepped-up with significant investments, and now Florida is poised to have the first port south of Virginia, PortMiami, that can receive the post-Panamax ships that will be coming from Asia through the Canal.
Post-Panamax vessels are nearly three times the size as current vessels being used. Florida’s gateways are better prepared at being able to facilitate the trade relationship between Florida and Panama.
Currently, Panama is one of the strongest economies in Latin America. The country boasts the second fastest growing GDP in the region, expected to reach a 6 percent growth in 2015. Total merchandise trade between Florida and Panama totaled $2.3 billion in 2013 and is expected to grow.
For these reasons, the Florida Chamber of Commerce- lead by Florida Secretary of Commerce Gray Swoope- will be joining partners Port Tampa Bay, Gulf Power, Keiser University, Port Miami, Tampa Hillsborough EDC, Bank of America, St Joe Company, Port Everglades, Tampa International Airport Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad, and Doug Wheeler of Florida Ports Council on an Export Sales Mission to Panama October 5-7.
The widening of the Panama Canal, together with the growth in Latin American and Caribbean markets, will realign global trade lanes and increase flows through this region in the coming decades.
Today the state of Florida is a global hub for trade. It took decades of innovative efforts, resourcefulness and entrepreneurship from the private sector, strategic investments from the public sector and capitalizing on opportunities like free trade agreements and the expansion of the Panama Canal to claim this title.
Florida’s international relationships are invaluable to our economy. By working to create opportunities with nations like Panama, and fueling massive economic development projects like the Panama Canal expansion and the dredging of PortMiami, we can diversify our own economy and fuel long-term investments by global businesses. Everything we do, we do on a global scale.
Florida’s future prosperity and our growth as a global hub for international trade are inextricably linked. In order for Florida to continue on its mission to be a global hub for trade, the business community must unite and policymakers must remain committed to Florida’s trade future. We hope you will save the date for International Days 2015, April 7-9. Contact email@example.com for more information.
Suez Canal Widening to Begin This Week
Corianne Egan, Associate Editor
The Suez Canal’s major deepening project is just over the horizon as crews will start widening and dredging a 34-kilometer strip in order to improve wait times for vessels using the canal.
AsiaCruiseNews.com reported today that the long-awaited widening project could take years to complete, but dredging crews will begin within the next week. The canal’s website says the dredging will take the canal from 48 feet to 52 feet.
“This project will allow giant container ships heading south to pass through these channels and reduce … total transit time,” the website says.
Currently, on a typical day three convoys transit the canal, usually consisting of two southbound and one northbound trip. It takes between 11 and 16 hours to complete the passage at a speed of eight knots.
The Suez Canal has seen record traffic this year, partially because of delays and construction at the Panama Canal. For the first time, on all-water services from Asia to the East Coast, a greater percentage of the shipments will move through the Suez Canal than via the Panama Canal, according to Alphaliner.
In May, the Suez Canal Authority reported 526 ships passed through the canal, up 6.9 percent from April’s totals. The number of container ships passing through the Suez in May was the highest since May 2013, when 533 container vessels transited the canal.
The ships are also larger than the vessels that make their way through the Panama Canal. Parts of the Suez are 66 feet deep and can accommodate vessels as large as Maersk’s 18,270-TEU Triple E ships. In 2013, Drewry reported the average size of ships passing through the Suez Canal was 7,756 TEUs; the current maximum for ships using the Panama Canal is about 5,000 TEUs.
Panama is Unrivalled – Just Look at the Rankings
By Dr Ian Collard, British Ambassador to Panama.
In recent years, while Europe has been struggling with the impact of an economic downturn, the economies of Latin America have bucked global trends and exceeded expectations.
High rates of economic growth, substantial infrastructure development and the emergence of the Pacific Alliance are evidence of Latin America’s new role in a changing world economy.
Panama – tagged by many as the Central American Tiger – has led the region’s economic performance for the last decade, with an extraordinary annual growth rate averaging around 8%.
Panama is the region’s emerging logistics hub with an unrivalled distribution network and connectivity, representing an easy and business-friendly entry point into wider regional markets.
With World Economic Forum indicators ranking Panama fourth in the world for the quality of its port facilities, first in Latin America for its air transport facilities, and first in the western hemisphere for the availability of its financial services, it is difficult to argue against its self-declared moniker as a gateway to the Americas.
Panama also has the largest public infrastructure programme in Central America. Mega projects include the expansion of the Panama Canal, development of Panama City’s Metro system, and development over several years of new logistics and port facilities.
Construction of an additional container port on the Pacific coast, a logistics park at the Pacific end of the Canal, container-on-barge services across the Canal, and a LNG bunkering station are some of the additional projects mooted.
It is little wonder that UKTI has added such projects to its list of global High Value Opportunities for British businesses.
Many of these endeavours will strengthen Panama’s logistics capacity, reinforcing its important geostrategic position in world trade and regional distribution, and enhancing its offer as a one-stop location for value-adding services.
Panama has a key role facilitating trade across the region, connecting north and south, providing a natural hub for commerce, and acting as a magnet for investment. Panama’s banking centre is home to 65 Latin American institutions, competing with Miami to be the regional financial centre of the Americas.
More than 100 multinational companies have established their regional and logistical headquarters in Panama, taking advantage of its communications, maritime and air links, and the tax incentives on offer.
In Colon, Panama has the second largest free trade zone in the world after Hong Kong, providing a home to more than 2,500 companies and handling more than $30bn in imports and re-exports from all corners of the world each year. As an increasingly popular regional distribution base, Panama has also become the shopping capital of the region for tourists and business visitors. In its highly diversified economy, retail accounted for as much as 14% of GDP in 2012
The indicators are already positive. With Panama’s ambition to join forces with the other Pacific
Alliance countries, Panama’s economic and commercial future looks even brighter.
The signing of a Free Trade Agreement with Mexico earlier this year was the last technical hurdle to Alliance membership. As a bloc, Alliance countries represent the second largest user of the Panama Canal, reinforcing the importance of Panama at the centre of the group’s trade strategy with Europe, the Caribbean and the eastern seaboard of the United States.
Panama is booming and it is open for business. I am confident that this country and the wider region will continue to grow, and will provide exciting new opportunities for UK businesses. I encourage you to read on and discover more about this fascinating and vibrant region.
Making Everything Shipshape
As Panama Canal Expands, West Coast Ports Scramble to Keep Big Cargo Vessels
By DIONNE SEARCEY
TACOMA, Wash. — As construction crews 5,000 miles away are working to widen the Panama Canal to allow much larger ships to sail straight to the East Coast, this historic port city and others along the West Coast are doing everything they can to avoid becoming superfluous.
The Port of Tacoma is determined to keep up its rich import business, which can be traced to the 1880s when chests of tea from Asia arrived at its docks and headed to the East Coast by rail. Port officials know that by the time the Panama Canal opens in 2016, an even newer, larger fleet of cargo ships will be plying the oceans and will be so big they will not be able to squeeze through even the wider channel.
So Tacoma, Seattle and other ports are spending billions to be ready to receive the ships and keep themselves competitive in the overall scramble for foreign trade.
“The ships continue to get bigger, the cranes need to get bigger, and the docks need to be able to handle them,” said Trevor Thornsley, senior project manager for the Port of Tacoma, as he stood along the jagged rebar and broken concrete of a $22 million renovation to shore up the port’s Pier 3.
The work in Tacoma, a major port in this state that likes to call itself the most trade-dependent in the nation, is among dozens of projects being completed in port citiesacross the United States in response to major changes in the world of container imports from Asia.
“Everybody in the supply chain from the manufacturer to the end consumer — that entire supply chain is changing,” said Tay Yoshitani, chief executive of the Port of Seattle. “The port industry is trying to make adjustments.”
Traditionally, America’s West Coast ports have been the gateway to the rest of the country for the growing supply of goods from China and Hong Kong. The ports in Tacoma, Seattle, Oakland, Los Angeles, Long Beach and elsewhere offer much shorter sailing times than Gulf Coast and East Coast ports. But for shippers of some goods, the web of logistics, including trucks and railroads, ends up being less expensive if they go through the Panama Canal.
Even though the West Coast ports are viewing the project to widen the Panama Canal as a major threat, it may not be their biggest challenge, said John Martin, who works as an economic consultant for several ports.
Most imminently, officials at the West Coast ports are concerned about negotiations underway for a union contract, which expires on Tuesday and affects nearly 20,000 dockworkers at 29 ports. In 2002, during contract negotiations, talks broke down and resulted in a bitter battle that shut down shipping along the West Coast for 10 days and sent cargo ships to other ports of call, some of them permanently.
Craig Merrilees, a spokesman for the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, said that contract talks were positive and on track. John Wolfe, the chief executive of the Port of Tacoma, said that while port officials did not have a role in the talks, he, too, was optimistic. “We’ve been down this road before,” Mr. Wolfe said. “We’re all in this together.”
“Everybody in the supply chain from the manufacturer to the end consumer — that entire supply chain is changing,” said Tay Yoshitani, chief executive of the Port of Seattle.CreditMatthew Ryan Williams for The New York Times
Besides the union concerns, ports are bracing for an onslaught of changes in the shipping world.
While the widened Panama Canal will allow an all-water route for big ships to the East Coast, the project — originally scheduled to open this year — has been plagued with construction delays. And the authorities have yet to announce toll charges for passing ships. In the end, it might be too expensive for some ships to use.
It is also possible that railroads that move goods from West Coast ports could lower fees to make it more economical for ships to avoid the Panama Canal route.
“The uncertainty as to what’s going to happen with rates is huge,” said Mr. Martin, the consultant, who is president of Martin Associates.
At the same time, sailing patterns may shift as Asian manufacturing continues to move from China to countries to the south, like Singapore and Vietnam, which are actually closer by sea to East Coast ports through the Suez Canal than to West Coast ports across the Pacific.
A new competitive threat has emerged 500 miles north of the United States border with Canada. Tacoma and Seattle are losing market share to the Port of Prince Rupert in British Columbia, just six years old and already doing brisk business with goods headed for the Midwest United States. While the port is nearly at capacity, the Canadian government continues to make major investments in it and is also pursuing a plan to build an export facility for liquefied natural gas that would tap a gas pipeline that is in the works.
For trade with China, Prince Rupert’s appeal is proximity. Prince Rupert is two to three days closer than the western coast of the United States, helping ships cut fuel costs. Another major factor is that Canada’s railroads are offering bargain rates to ship goods from Prince Rupert to Midwestern cities, analysts said. While the railways and truck lines in Canada have a history of labor instability, cargo carriers sailing into the country can avoid taxes levied by the United States government.
Here at the Port of Tacoma, the biggest threat in the past has been the port just 30 miles away in Seattle. The two ports have fought back and forth for decades over shipping business. But the new competition from Canada and elsewhere has brought an unusual alliance.
This year, the two ports for the first time sought permission from the Federal Maritime Commission to share information on operations and rates without violating federal antitrust laws. The ports now are coordinating lobbying tactics as well as construction projects to make sure they’re not duplicating efforts, officials said, and are researching other ways to cooperate.
“In the past 60 years we’ve truly been cutthroat,” said Stephanie Bowman, a commissioner for the Port of Seattle. “We’ve been able to work together and put aside our historical competition.”
In Seattle, the port’s facilities already have undergone $1.2 billion in upgrades through 2012 and plans have been approved for an additional $5 million to upgrade Terminal 5 to get ready for big ships. Tacoma’s Pier 3 project will make it sturdy enough to handle the monster cranes needed to reach across wide berths and unload the big ships.
The expenditures are a gamble. No one knows for sure whether enough of the big ships will come to Seattle and Tacoma to offset the investments in the ports. But Steve Sewell, economic development director for Washington State’s maritime industry, said the preparations were worth it.
“You have to make some investments,” Mr. Sewell said, “and take some risks.”