Higher Volumes Unite US Ports


US officials have given the green light to the country’s second and third largest container ports to trade information on container handling practices and equipment purchases.

The US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has agreed to let two US East Coast ports share operational details in the latest maritime industry consolidation.

A joint application by Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) and the Virginia Port Authority (VPA) was filed on February 24, 2017 and approved on April 7, 2017.

A 45-day period inclusive of a 12-day session for public comments passed before the FMC said it would allow the “East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement”.

As approved, the agreement will encourage the ports in sharing best practices as well as information on cargo handling, gate operation, equipment, infrastructure, staffing, turn-times, operating systems and container use and repair.

It also lets the ports jointly discuss commercial opportunities regarding carriers. They can then acquire marketing materials for carriers as well as for alliances, shippers, beneficial cargo owners and ocean transport intermediaries.

As a combined unit the ports can attend meetings and receive operational information and performance criteria from carriers, shippers and terminal operators.

The agreement does not allow them to share data on purchase or lease prices for containers or chassis.

It also prohibits them from entering into agreements on rates, charges, terms or conditions on containers or chassis without filing an agreement with the FMC.

They must report all joint discussions that lead to an agreement under the Shipping Act, which deals with antitrust issues, to the FMC.

Sharing operational data may allow the ports to reach their goal of becoming the “leading gateways for containerized cargo” on the East Coast.

US ports are responding to the uniting of the big global shipping alliances, such as the latest incarnation of 2M which was approved last week.  

Griff Lynch, GPA's executive director 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. I would like to thank our respective employees and partners in the ILA as we move forward together.

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.”

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