Michael Khouri, acting chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, said such pacts can help terminals improve service and operations to benefit the American shipper and consumer.
The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) unanimously voted on Friday to allow port authorities in Virginia and Georgia to engage in discussions about a variety of commercial and operational topics.
The Virginia Port Authority (VPA) and Georgia Port Authority’s (GPA) East Coast Port Gateway Terminal Agreement (FMC No. 012469) took effect today.
The two port authorities said the agreement encourages the exchange of information and “best practices” in five areas:
• Cargo handling practices and terms, gate operations and access, turn-times, staffing and infrastructure;
• Joint or independent acquisition, utilization and best practices relating to operating systems and equipment, including metrics relating to the repair and use of chassis and containers;
• Joint or independent acquisition and use of marketing materials for ocean carriers, alliances, shippers, beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) and ocean transport intermediaries;
• Commercial opportunities regarding carriers;
• And, acting as one, the port authorities can meet and exchange operational information and performance criteria with carriers, shippers and other marine terminal operators.
The FMC said the agreement does not permit the two port authorities to jointly negotiate, set, and approve terminal rates or charges.
“The East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement is the latest example of port authorities and MTOs looking to the Shipping Act and the Commission’s agreement authority as a way to improve service and operations, which will ultimately benefit the American shipper and consumer,” FMC Acting Chairman Michael Khouri said. “The ocean transportation services sector is a dynamic and competitive business where the marketplace drives innovation.”
GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch said, “Our industry is changing rapidly, and as a result, increased collaboration between ports is necessary to provide the service excellence our customers expect and deserve. It is clear that both Georgia and Virginia are East Coast gateway ports and this step further allows us to create jobs, economic development and improve safety.”
VPA CEO and Executive Director John Reinhart said, “The agreement enables Georgia and Virginia to work together to find ways to become more efficient and effective, which will benefit the citizens of our respective states, as well as shippers and the carriers. We are making significant investments at our respective ports to handle the larger vessels and cargo volumes coming to the East Coast. Now we will begin discussing about how to best leverage these assets, collectively and position Georgia and Virginia as the East Coast’s primary cargo gateways.”
When they filed the agreement with the FMC in February, Lynch and Reinhart said in a joint statement, “The U.S. East Coast continues to see larger vessels and cargo exchanges since the opening of the expanded Panama Canal last year. Increasingly, our customers are seeking gateway ports on the East Coast that can leverage sufficient landside infrastructure to ensure the free flow of cargo.”
In 2015, the ports of Seattle and Tacoma decided to consolidate the management of their marine terminals, under what they call the Northwest Seaport Alliance.
In December 2016, APM Terminals, DP World, Hutchinson Port Holdings, PSA International, Shanghai International Port (Group) Co., and the Port of Rotterdam Authority filed a “Global Ports Group Agreement” with the FMC, but later withdrew the filing, at least in part, because only one of the parties, APM Terminals, operates facilities in the U.S.