The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma can now form a port development authority in support of their Seaport Alliance thanks to a bill passed by the Washington state legislature and signed last Friday by Governor Jay Inslee.

Under the authority of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), the two ports have been working out the details of their alliance. The two port commissions intend to submit a more detailed agreement to the FMC for approval later this spring.

The Seaport Alliance will unify management of the two ports’ marine cargo terminals and related functions to continue their leading roles in international trade and to create more jobs for the region. The two ports will retain existing port commission governance and asset ownership.

While the alliance could be formed under a number of different governance structures, according to the Port of the Seattle, the port development authority structure has been recommended because it: Creates a separate entity for contracting, auditing and reporting purposes; Allows the joint commissions to meet while remaining subject to the Open Public Meetings Act and public records disclosure; Clarifies status as a tax-exempt entity; and Facilitates development of the new team and governance structure through the existence of a separate entity.

According to a prepared statement, today the Tacoma and Seattle ports are the third-largest container gateway in North America, and their marine cargo operations support more than 48,000 jobs. Combining the strengths of the two ports’ marine cargo operations will position the region to address competitive challenges and create new economic opportunities.

Seattle also ranked as the eighth largest U.S. cruise port in terms of passenger traffic in 2014.