After a vote by the United States Federal Maritime Commission, a report has been approved to look at whether Canadian ports on the West Coast are purposely taking cargo business away from the US. The report will be handed over the U.S. Congress.

The allegations were made by two Washington state senators. However several U.S. experts say Canada hasn’t been doing anything wrong. And as a result of a close vote, 3-2 there could be some tension between the Canada-U.S. relationships.

As usual, there are opposing sides within the United States. The Democrats are in favor of the report while the Republicans are against it saying the cargo problem was not very significant.

Apparently the issue has been boiling under the surface ever since senators Maira Cantwell and Patty Murray stated that the Canadian ports were unfairly subsidizing the diversion of cargo ships, especially in Prince Rupert. After requesting the inquiry, several lawmakers from the House of Representatives showed their support.

Part of the issue is that U.S. Ports have an added charge due to the cost of dredging the channels on the West Coast. Prince Rupert’s deep channels do not require any and the Vancouver requires very little dredging.

The Canadians argue that the recommended counter-levy amounts to a punishing tariff on every container entering the U.S. from B.C. ports.

Prince Rupert and Vancouver ports are gaining popularity due to several advantages: cargo ships arriving earlier from China, the Great Circle Route across the Pacific Ocean and Prince Rupert is not burdened by urban traffic.

A Prince Rupert Port Authority atated that overseas exporters choose them because of speed, efficiency and reliability, not cost.

As tensions continue, Ron Kirk (the U.S. Trade Representative) and David Jacobson (U.S. Ambassador to Canada) will have to try to calm Canadians upset about what appears to be an increase in American protectionism and is expected to cause tension in U.S.-Canada relations.