While in Seattle last month for Pacific Marine Expo, I attended the 2014 Maritime Economic Forecast Breakfast. I learned that maritime officials in the state of Washington see growth potential in the workboat sector of the industry. With 40 percent of the jobs in the state tied to trade, there is a need to tell the maritime story, according to Steve Sewell, Washington State Maritime Sector Lead, Washington State Department of Commerce.
“A lot of people think this is a dying industry, and it is not dying,” he told an audience of more than 300 at CenturyLink Field. Sewell added that the maritime community needs to get the word out, especially to young people, that a career in the marine industry can be rewarding both substantially and financially. Currently, there are 57,700 marine jobs statewide, he said. “It’s [the marine industry]not old fashioned. We need better trained and skilled workers.”
The breakfast preceded the second day of the Expo (PME) at the CenturyLink Field Event Center. For years the expo had focused primarily on the fishing and seafood processing industries. And while those areas are still prominent, there has been an added emphasis on the Pacific Northwest workboat sector over the last decade.
“The workboat sector is really a growth area here in the Northwest,” Eugene Wasserman with the North Seattle Industrial Association and King County Maritime said during his remarks.
Meanwhile, the subject that garnered most of the attention was the proposal that the ports of Seattle and Tacoma announced back in October concerning a joint operation they call the Seaport Alliance. The alliance will focus entirely on protecting marine cargo market share and growing cargo volumes for Puget Sound.
“This is not a merger. Seaport Alliance focuses on marine cargo,” said Courtney Gregoire, a commissioner with the Port of Seattle. “We recognize outside threats such as the expanded use of the Panama Canal giving more options to some of our customers.
The Port of Seattle will continue to independently own and manage SeaTac Airport, Fisherman’s Terminal and other entities, and the Port of Tacoma will continue to manage most of its industrial and commercial real estate holdings.
The ports are currently involved in six months of due diligence during which teams from both ports are working together to identify business objectives, strategic marine cargo terminal investments and organizational structure for the alliance.
“This is a way that we can be stronger when talking to railroads and Washington [State] legislators,” said Clare Petrich, a Port of Tacoma commissioner.
The due diligence period ends in April.