New competitive pressures in the global supply chain and certain intrastate dynamics have the potential to slow the modernization of Washington State's port system, according to a new study released this week.
The study was sponsored by the Washington Maritime Federation (WMF) and it charts out a public policy course for Washington State officials.
"The maritime sector is more integral to the survival of Washington's economy than any other state in the nation," said David Matsuda, former U.S. Maritime Administrator in the Obama Administration and co-author of the report. "But the Evergreen State's historic role as a gateway to Pacific markets is a competitive advantage that can no longer be viewed as static in our increasingly interconnected world."
Along with Steve Rothberg, partner at Mercator International, the paper reviews successful maritime policies adopted in other North American ports such as those in British Columbia, Canada, Savannah, and Georgia and compares those successes with Washington's opportunity slate.
The report identifies three specific policy recommendations that Washington could adopt that have worked well for other North American ports. They are:
• Better harness freight infrastructure investments;
• Improve infrastructure project siting and project delivery processes; and
• Engender greater coordination between government and industry port stakeholders.
The notion that it is more difficult to conduct business in Washington than elsewhere because of lack of public and government support for the industry can be detrimental to competitiveness, state the authors. While as a policy the federal government and many states have attempted to rein in the length of time it takes to complete the infrastructure project permitting process, Washington has actually taken steps that can lengthen it.
In addition to lacking a clear timeframe for decision making, Washington’s recent implementation of its own permitting rules on its face stands as a deterrent to port investment.
Washington’s maritime industry represents more than 150,000 jobs and $30 billion worth of economic activity to the state. Washington has 75 state-recognized port authorities located in
33 of its 39 counties. Washington harbors one of the largest locally controlled public port systems in the world: the Northwest Seaport Alliance comprising the Port of Seattle and Port of Tacoma.
"Public policy decisions matter," said Matsuda. "Washington State policy planners face the ongoing challenge of modernizing port infrastructure through direct spending and luring investment to support efficient transportation services and associated jobs, but often the diverse maritime industry gets overlooked."
The report is available here.