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Concluding a Historic Presidency

Feb 21, 2024

In 2023, I was honored to be voted by my fellow Port Commissioners as the first person of color to become Commission President in the Port’s 111-year history. It was an incredible year for the Port, full of unexpected challenges and unprecedented successes, and I look forward to Commissioner Mohamed’s leadership as Commission President this year. As 2024 begins, I am more confident than ever before that the Port of Seattle is set up to be the Port of the Future.

Watch my remarks at the State of the Port 2024

Here are some notable events of the last few months of 2023.

Photo credit: Robert Payne, Greater Seattle Partners

U.S. Trade Representative’s Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee

When I started my small exporting business out of my home just a few years ago, I never could have imagined that I would one day be advising the U.S. federal government on trade policy. This is why I'm proud to share my appointment by Ambassador Katherine Tai to the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR) Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee on Trade. Leveraging my experience as both a Port of Seattle and Northwest Seaport Alliance leader, and my background as an international exporter, I'm honored to contribute to shaping effective U.S. trade policies.

In this role, I work to infuse local and state government perspectives into the federal government’s human rights, global trade, and development policies. This appointment not only elevates Washington State’s voice in trade policy but also aligns with the Port’s ongoing efforts to foster a stronger national economy and expand international commerce opportunities. My involvement in regional trade policy and economic development boards, alongside the recent launch of the Greater Seattle Export Accelerator program, underscores my commitment to enhancing our nation's trade landscape and supporting small businesses in global markets. I'm proud that this trade advisory role, in addition to my appointment to the U.S. Department of Transportation's Advisory Committee on Human Rights, is elevating the Port of Seattle on a national level.

Members of the Advisory Committee on Human Trafficking (ACHT), including Commissioner Sam Cho, with U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

International Association of Ports and Harbors World Ports Conference

Attending the International Association of Ports and Harbors (IAPH) World Ports Conference in Abu Dhabi was a truly enriching experience. It was an incredible opportunity to engage with our sister ports from Busan, Kobe, Rotterdam, Singapore, and the local hosts from Abu Dhabi and Oman. The conference centered on a pivotal theme in today’s maritime industry: decarbonization and the maritime energy transition.

DecorativeAt the Port of Seattle, we are committed to leading the way in sustainability. Our goal to reduce seaport-related emissions by 50% below 2005 levels by 2030 sets a strong example on the world stage, and sharing our progress is a key reason I attended this conference. Furthermore, our commitment to achieving net zero or better port-owned emissions by 2040, and driving the entire Port community to carbon neutrality by 2050, proves we are serious about helping the planet reach our emissions goals.

Key to our strategy is the Northwest Ports Clean Air Strategy, which has significantly reduced diesel particulate matter and greenhouse gases over the last decade. We believe in the power of collaboration, as seen in our joint efforts with the Ports of Tacoma and Vancouver. This approach ensures that our sustainability gains do not compromise regional competitiveness.

Our efforts were recently acknowledged with the U.S. Department of Energy selecting the Pacific Northwest as one of its seven national clean hydrogen hubs, marking a significant milestone towards a clean energy future in the region. Additionally, we are exploring innovative initiatives like the feasibility study for a zero-emissions shipping corridor to Alaska.

The IAPH World Ports Conference was a reminder of the Port of Seattle’s role on the global stage. It’s exhilarating to share and learn about innovative solutions that balance environmental responsibility with economic vitality. As we continue to navigate through these challenges, our focus remains steadfast on advancing sustainable practices that benefit our community, our region, and the maritime industry at large.

Commissioner Cho and Busan Port Authority President and CEO Joon-Suk Kang

Busan Sister Port Renewal

My recent trip to Busan, South Korea was both a celebration of 42 years of partnership between the Ports of Seattle and Busan and a personally meaningful moment for me. When I signed the renewal of our sister Port agreement with Busan Port Authority President and CEO Joon-Suk Kang, I thought of how this agreement has grown from a symbolic gesture of friendship to a robust framework for collaboration and exchange over the decades.


Our partnership stands as a testament to our shared dedication to advancing maritime technology and sustainability, reflected in initiatives like the green cargo shipping corridor we are studying that would link Busan and the Pacific Northwest with a zero-emissions economic tether. I also thought of my father (who was from Busan) and the path that he took to get me where I am today.


Happy Lunar New Year,

Sam Cho
Port of Seattle Commissioner and Past President


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