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The Georgia Ports Authority (GPA) and Virginia Port Authority (VPA) last week obtained federal approval for a new agreement that will allow the ports to share information in certain operational areas.The Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) approved the ports' proposed East Coast Gateway Terminal Agreement, which port officials say would position the ports as the "U.S. East Coast's leading gateways for containerized cargo," according to a jointly issued press release.A joint application to proceed with the agreement's development was filed in February. The FMC's approval followed a 45-day review period, including 12 days of public comment. The approved agreement encourages the exchange of information and best practices in the following five areas:• cargo handling practices and terms, gate operations and access, turn-times, staffing and infrastructure;• joint or independent acquisition, utilization and best practices relating to operating systems and equipment, including metrics relating to the repair and use chassis and containers;• joint or independent acquisition and use of marketing materials for ocean carriers, alliances, shippers, beneficial cargo owners (BCOs) and ocean transport intermediaries;• commercial opportunities regarding carriers; and• operational information and performance criteria shared with carriers, shippers and other marine terminal operators.The agreement does not cover discussions regarding purchase or lease prices for containers or chassis. In addition, the agreement prohibits the ports from entering into agreements on rates, charges, terms or conditions on containers or chassis without filing an agreement with the FMC.Moreover, joint discussions between the ports that lead to an agreement under the federal Shipping Act must be filed with the FMC."Our industry is changing rapidly and as a result increased collaboration between ports is necessary to provide the service excellence our customers expect and deserve," said GPA Executive Director Griff Lynch."We are making significant investments at our respective ports to handle the larger vessels and cargo volumes coming to the East Coast," said VPA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director John Reinhart. "Now we will begin discussing about how to best leverage these assets collectively and position Georgia and Virginia as the East Coast's primary cargo gateways."