Increase Washington port competitiveness

Washington ports are a gateway to and from the rest of the world. The Northwest Seaport Alliance (the combined shipping terminals of the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma) is the third largest container gateway in North America, and more than a dozen other state ports engage in import and export activity. Approximately seventy percent of import goods coming through the NW Seaport Alliance are discretionary, bound for the rest of the country, which means that our state’s continued role in the global supply chain relies on our ports’ ability to function efficiently and at full capacity.

WCIT focuses its port competitiveness efforts on three policy and regulatory issues:

Investment in port and freight mobility infrastructure: Washington businesses must be able to move goods in and out of the port and to their destination quickly and affordably. We should prioritize the limited local, state and federal dollars that were recently approved through the FAST Act and Washington state transportation package on the most critical projects to ensure sufficient capacity on our road, rail and air cargo systems.

Reform the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT): The HMT is a federal tax imposed on goods being imported through U.S. ports. While the funds collected are meant for maintenance dredging of federal navigational channels, only about half are used for this purpose, leaving navigation channels inadequately maintained. Just as troubling, the HMT incentivizes shippers to bypass U.S. ports because the tax is not assessed on importers who route cargo through non-U.S. ports (such as Canada and Mexico) and then move their cargo into U.S. markets by land. Even more worrying for Washington ports, the majority of HMT revenue goes to East and Gulf Coast ports, giving us an inequitable return on investment. In 2016, U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and Representatives DelBene, Heck, Kilmer, Larsen, McDermott, Reichert, and Smith introduced the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund Reform Act.

Ensure our ports are predictable and open: The 2014-2015 West Coast port slowdown cost Washington state $769.5 million in near-term losses, and incalculable future losses due to terminated contracts and lost future sales.In fact, many small businesses still have not recovered and returned to their pre-slowdown levels of employment. We need to ensure that all parties are committed to working together to ensure that another slowdown doesn’t happen in four years.

Join WCIT in working to successfully address these concerns and ensuring that Washington ports remain competitive in the international marketplace. To learn how you can get involved, contact Eric Schinfeld at erics@wcit.org or 206.389.7273.