James Newsome, the president and chief executive officer of the South Carolina State Ports Authority, believes ports may respond to planned P3 Network of Maersk, MSC and CMA CGM by filing agreements with the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) to work more closely together.
Speaking at the Journal of Commerce
's Port Productivity Seminar in Newark, N.J., on Tuesday, Newsome said he was hopeful the P3 agreement would be approved in some form or fashion, but said ports that are in close proximity may file cooperation agreements with the FMC to create "a reasonable countervailing power."
Elaborating in a brief interview, Newsome said he did not have a specific proposal, but noted that ports can file cooperative agreements with the FMC.
"The idea is that there are going to be bigger ships, maybe fewer ships, and a lot of pressure on and competition between ports, so the ports may want to respond to that a little bit more proactive way," he told American Shipper
"We have some talking agreements today," he continued, "but I suspect that you will see ports in regionally similar locations want to intensify some of that." He said ports might be able to jointly contract.
Newsome said he saw no reason that the big alliances such as the P3 and G6 should not be approved "as long as they do not do joint pricing and things of that nature."
He did not believe the joint operations center the P3 plans to set up in London was a major stumbling block, noting that even two decades ago, a vessel-sharing agreement of Sea-Land, Nedlloyd and P&O had a joint operations center.
He expected that lines will continue to buy terminal-handling services from ports individually.
Newsome said his understanding was that while the lines will jointly agree on what ports to call at, each company will negotiate for the containers they move through the port.
"Most arrangements today apply at the container level, no matter whose ship it is," he said.
He added that lines may have to give up discussion agreements such as Transpacific Stabilization Agreement in order to have P3 approved.
Newsome said he sees less pressure by container carriers for dedicated facilities at ports "because the lines want to focus on doing what they do well — operating ships, handling containers, and not necessarily operating terminals — in the U.S."
The "work horse" containership calling the U.S. East Coast in the next few years will be an 8,000-TEU to 10,000-TEU ship, he said, but once the Bayonne Bridge is raised in New York Harbor in 2015, allowing large containerships easier access to the large container terminals in Elizabeth and Newark, N.J., he said he expects 13,000-TEU to 14,000-TEU ships will be routine on the East Coast.