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Port Slowdown Dulls Washington Apple Exports

Port Slowdown Dulls Washington Apple Exports

Los Angeles, CA – The export of one of the Pacific Northwest’s staple agricultural products – apples – has been severely impacted by the continuing work slowdown by dock workers as labor contract talks between the Pacific Maritime Association and the International Longshore & Warehouse Union continue drag on.

“Individual firms have lost millions of dollars a week in orders. We’re estimating tens of millions of dollars each week throughout the industry,” said Jon DeVaney, president of the Washington State Tree Fruit Association.

“There’s an immediate negative impact on returns to growers and the industry as a whole.”

Every year Washington exports about 30 percent of its entire production to more than 60 countries around the world.

In the 2013-14 crop year the quantity exported was over 37.3 million 42-lb bushel cartons.

This year, the industry produced a huge crop of about 155 million, 40-pound boxes – 35 percent more than usual. Despite the record crop and growing seasonal demand for the fruit, in early November, growers said apples would have to leave port by the end of the month to reach markets in Asia, the Caribbean and the Middle East.

A number of firms, particularly packers, marketers and shippers, he said have been forced to lay off workers or cut hours “because they’re not moving inventory at the rate they planned to.”

DeVaney comments were echoed by Todd Fryhover, president of the Washington Apple Commission, who said the continuing port situation “hurts and continues to hurt. We need to find a solution. It’s having a huge impact.”


Seattle, Tacoma to Combine Ocean Cargo Operations

Seattle, WA – ​ The Seattle and Tacoma port commissions will unify the management of the two ports’ marine cargo terminals and related functions under a single Seaport Alliance “to strengthen the Puget Sound gateway and attract more marine cargo for the region.”

The new Seaport Alliance will manage marine cargo terminal investments and operations, planning and marketing, while the individual port commissions will retain their existing governance structures and ownership of assets, said a spokesman for the Port of Seattle.

This unprecedented level of cooperation between the state’s two largest container ports “is a strategic response to the competitive pressures that are reshaping the global shipping industry.”

The ports of Seattle and Tacoma, which, when combined, form the third-largest container gateway in North America, “face fierce competition from ports throughout North America, as shipping lines form alliances, share space on ever-larger vessels and call at consolidated terminals at fewer ports,” said Port of Tacoma Commission president Clare Petrich.

“Working together, we can better focus on financially sustainable business models that support customer success and ensure our ability to reinvest in terminal assets and infrastructure,” she said.

“Where we were once rivals, we now intend to be partners,” said Stephanie Bowman, co-president of the Port of Seattle Commission.

Instead of competing, “we are combining our strengths to create the strongest maritime gateway in North America. The Seaport Alliance is the result of our shared commitment to maintaining the economic health of our region through a thriving maritime industry.”

The Seaport Alliance is the outgrowth of talks held under the sanction and guidance of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC).

Subject to further FMC review and approval, the two port commissions will enter into an ‘Interlocal Agreement’ (ILA), which is intended “to provide the ports with a framework for a period of due diligence to examine business objectives, strategic marine terminal investments, financial returns, performance metrics, organizational structure, communications and public engagement.”

Following the due diligence period, the two port commissions intend to submit a more detailed agreement for the Seaport Alliance to the FMC by the end of March 2015.

During the due diligence period, John Wolfe, Port of Tacoma CEO, and Kurt Beckett, Port of Seattle deputy CEO, will co-lead the planning work and coordinate with both port commissions, according to a joint statement released by both ports.

Commissioners from both ports expect to hold a public meeting next spring to hire Wolfe as the CEO of the Seaport Alliance following the FMC’s approval of the agreement.