News Releases

FREIGHT: Senator Murray Responds to FMC Report on Cargo Diversion

Jul 27 2012

Report determines that more than 1 in 4 containers are at risk for diversion from U.S. West Coast ports to Canadian ports

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) responded to a Federal Maritime Commission report that studied inland containerized cargo moving through Canadian and Mexican seaports and bound for the United States.  The report, which was released this morning, found that Pacific Northwest ports are especially vulnerable to cargo diversion, and as much as 26.7 percent of container volume in 2010 for the West Coast ports of Seattle, Tacoma, Portland and Oakland was ‘at risk’ of diverting to a Canadian port. The estimate was determined by assessing the vulnerability of U.S. bound containers to further incursions by Canada’s west coast ports by comparing data on containers bound for the Midwest.

“This report makes it clear that we can’t afford to stop investing in our West Coast ports to make sure we maintain our competitive edge in the 21st century and beyond,” said Senator Patty Murray. “An efficient freight policy is essential to attracting and retaining business from around the world, and this report underscores that we simply can’t afford to fall behind.”

Senators Murray and Cantwell requested the study in a letter to FMC Chairman Richard Lidinsky last August, and the Commission voted unanimously in November 2011 to move forward and solicit public comment on the topic.  The Senators’ letter requested an analysis of the impacts and the extent to which the Harbor Maintenance Tax (HMT) and other factors impact cargo diversion to west coast Canadian and Mexican ports.

The FMC determined that the Harbor Maintenance Tax was found to be one of many factors in container routing. Other factors include shipment savings, port diversification, national freight policy, and rail rate disparities. The report also dispelled several of the advertised benefits of foreign ports, such as total transit time from shipping origin to destination. Such advantages, when compared to other factors, were not as significant as previously believed.