Timely reminder of the importance of Washington’s seaports. And some good news for major cargo gateway.

A new economic impact analysis commissioned by the Northwest Seaports Alliance highlights the importance of cargo trade to our state. From the executive summary of the report prepared by Community Attributes Inc. (CAI).

The Northwest Seaport Alliance (NWSA) represents one of the largest marine cargo gateways in the U.S. In 2017, more than 3.7 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) carrying 26.1 million metric tons of containerized cargo were handled at The Northwest Seaport Alliance across facilities at the Ports of Seattle and Tacoma. The majority of this cargo was international, though 700,000 TEUs were shipped to and from Alaska, Hawaii and other domestic locations.

In addition to containerized shipping, The Northwest Seaport Alliance also handles non-containerized cargo, including breakbulk, liquid bulk, automobiles and logs. In total, nearly 27.6 million metric tons of cargo was handled at The Northwest Seaport Alliance in 2017.

Economic Impacts

Combined across all marine cargo activities, the NWSA directly supported 20,100 jobs and $1.9 billion in labor income in 2017. The average annual wage among direct jobs supported by marine cargo through the NWSA, including benefits, was nearly $95,000. In total, the NWSA marine cargo directly supported $5.9 billion in business output in 2017.

Factoring in upstream business-to-business transactions (indirect) and worker earned income household consumption expenditures (induced), the NWSA activities supported 58,400 jobs across the state economy, or the equivalent of a job multiplier of 2.9. In other words, for every direct job, marine cargo activities through the NWSA support an additional 1.9 jobs throughout the Washington state economy.

The industry is a big deal, the linchpin of our state’s maritime industry.  A cover story in Washington Business, the quarterly magazine published by the Association of Washington Business, called maritime “the biggest sector no one talks about” and described threats from gentrification and waterfront development and intense competition. 

There’s also good news in boosting our competitive position, as Seattle Times business reporter Paul Roberts writes.

On Tuesday, officials with the Northwest Seaport Alliance, the joint venture between the ports of Seattle and Tacoma, unveiled a tentative deal with Seattle-based Stevedoring Services of America Terminals (SSAT), one of the world’s largest terminal operators, to manage a planned “big ship” loading facility on Terminal 5, just west of Harbor Island.

The long-sought deal would be a major step in a proposed $500 million-plus upgrade to Terminal 5 that will allow the Puget Sound cargo gateway to handle more of the super-large freighters that are reshaping global trade.

The ST editorial board applauds the announcement.

Even as Seattle becomes more tech centric, it must continue supporting its maritime sector, which provides tens of thousands of jobs and economic opportunity across the state.

The sector will get a boost from massive investments coming to the city’s harbor.

Under plans the Port of Seattle should approve on Feb. 26, the port will spend around $340 million upgrading Terminal 5 at the base of West Seattle…

This will restore Terminal 5 to its highest and best use as a world-class cargo facility, extend Seattle’s maritime heritage and reaffirm its role as the portal to the Pacific.

As the CAI report makes clear, the seaport alliance makes significant tax contributions to state and local government.

The economic impacts of marine cargo at The Northwest Seaport Alliance support various state and local tax bases, which in turn yield tax revenues. The direct and secondary economic activities related to marine cargo at the NWSA generated nearly $136 million in sales and use taxes, business and occupation taxes, and other taxes for Washington state.

This includes nearly $107 million generated through containerized cargo related activities, $8 million generated by automobile cargoes and $21 million from breakbulk, logs and other cargo.

It’s good to see progress and growth in a sector that’s of critical importance in our trade-driven economy.