US Senate Bill Could Shake Up Competition Between WA/BC Ports

By: Elliott Smith
The Tacoma News Tribune reports that US Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell are proposing a new bill in Congress that could shake things up in the competition between Washington state and British Columbia Ports.Container ShippingAs it currently stands, containers imported to Puget Sound face a federally-imposed Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) that averages approximately $109 per container. On a ship that carries 5,000 or more containers, this tax adds up quickly. The added cost can be a powerful incentive for ships to land at Prince Rupert or Vancouver, instead of Seattle or Tacoma. The HMT is intended to help pay for harbor dredging. But, because Puget Sound’s natural deepwater ports don’t require dredging, Washington’s port facilities get virtually nothing in return for collecting this tax.
Murray and Cantwell have proposed the Maritime Goods Movement Act for the 21st Century in an effort to make American seaports more competitive with their Canadian counterparts. Among other things, the bill would require that containers processed at Prince Rupert and shipped by rail to Chicago pay the $109 per container tax upon crossing the US/Canada Border.
The News Tacoma News Tribune’s Editorial Board supports the Maritime Goods Movement Act for the 21st Century, saying:
The proposal is well-named. Everything about the U.S. harbor maintenance tax — how it’s collected, how it’s spent, where it’s spent — reflects circumstances that have long since changed. America’s deepwater ports must adapt to compete in the 21st century. They can’t do that with the federal government working against them. Read the full editorial here.
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