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The US east coast port authorities of Georgia and Virginia have been given a green light from the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) for discussions on “a variety of operational and commercial topics”, in what is likely to be the latest port alliance development.

Georgia and Virginia, which respectively oversee the container gateways of Savannah and Norfolk, have drawn up an East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement “to exchange information related to the best use of their wharves, berths and cargo handling equipment, all to the benefit of the shipping public”.

FMC acting chairman Michael Khouri said the agreement was “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”.

He added: “The ocean transportation services sector is a dynamic and competitive business where the marketplace drives innovation. The port authorities in Virginia and Georgia are responding to a changing industry.”

The proposed agreement would see the two port authorities discussing “vessel calls and rotations, operational efficiencies, cost reductions, the changing shipping environment, large ship operations, supply chain technology, stevedoring, gate, rail and yard operations, warehousing, safety and security, customer service and new product lines”.

It would also look at joint or independent acquisition, utilisation and best practices relating to operating systems and equipment, including the repair and use of chassis and containers.

However, the two ports are not permitted to discuss terminal handling charges or other fees, such as potential chassis leasing.

The momentum for alliances between ports and terminal in the US appears to be gathering. In December, the FMC authorised two adjacent container terminals in Miami to seek “cooperation and commonality in both business and operating matters”.

During a speech to the North Atlantic Ports Association in Virginia at the beginning of December, FMC commissioner William Doyle suggested the Miami operators’ filing could form a template for terminal alliances to construct framework service agreements with liner alliances.

In January 2015, the Pacific ports of Tacoma and Seattle created the Northwest Seaports Alliance to jointly manage their respective container handling businesses.

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