Shipping industry publications are reporting that at that the former chair of the US Federal Maritime Commission is supporting the position that a fee should be placed on containers from overseas coming into the US in order to deter businesses from using the Prince Rupert port to get their goods to US markets.
Helen Delich Bently is a former congresswoman and used to be the the US’s Maritime Commissioner. The Maritime Commission is currently investigating whether or not Prince Rupert has an unfair advantage over US ports. They recently stopped receiving public comment on the issue, although lots of comments from government, the public and industry were sent in.
The issues is centred around the Harbour Maintenance Tax which is charged on the value of every container being imported through US ports. In Canada, there is no similar tax charged to port users, and American ports believe that is causing their customers to divert their traffic to Prince Rupert to take advantage of what the ports see as a regulatory loophole. A loophole they want closed.
Shipping publications reported last week that Bentley gave a speech to a group of “assembled maritime interests” in which she talked about the west coast ports’ concerns that they were losing imports from Asia to Prince Rupert specifically. She proposed that the solution is to extend the Harbour Maintenance Tax to cargo entering the company by land after being shipped to a Canadian port.
This is the same solution being advocated Association of Washington Ports in their submission to the Maritime Commission on the issue; most submissions to the commission were against the imposition of new taxes or fees however. It’s not clear how much more weight will be given to that solution now that it has the endorsement of a former maritime commissioner.
The current Maritime Commissioner, Richard Lidinsky has already been accused by Canada’s biggest business organization, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of being biased against Canadian interests. Lindinsky has been quoted before the inquiry began as saying that the US needs to “level the playing-field . . . so that the US can continue to compete for cargo.” Which the chamber says shows that he has already bought into the ports’ narrative that Canadian ports enjoy an unfair advantage.