Global spotlight shines on state’s work to lead, accelerate maritime innovation

Gov. Jay Inslee’s maritime sector lead, Joshua Berger, traveled to Paris and Norway to share Washington’s ocean economy story with global partners.

By Joshua Berger

As a child, I spent days foraging the beach and sailing in western Long Island Sound. As a teen, I sailed the North Atlantic from the West Indies to Rhode Island. As a young adult, I worked aboard tug boats from New Orleans to New York Harbor, and San Diego to Kodiak, Alaska. I’ve sailed tall ships as education classrooms at sea and provided platforms for marine science research. The ocean, its economy, its power and its fragility are keenly part of my life.

Gov. Jay Inslee’s Maritime Innovation Advisory Council stands for a photo after finishing a strategy rollout in January 2019. This group led the development of Washington’t strategy for the blue economy. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Berger)

Last month, I traveled to France and Norway to share insights about our ocean economy work in Washington. In January, the governor unveiled Washington Maritime Blue 2050 Strategy, a comprehensive implementation plan for the ocean economy. It has captured international interest because it’s among the first efforts in the world to move beyond an economic vision and into action. It is a passion of mine and a passion of the governor who has fought for years for economic opportunity in the maritime sector, and against the twin scourges of climate change and ocean acidification.

When I was in Paris, I took part in a United Nations intergovernmental round table that hosted 37 member countries. Most of us needed to use translation headsets but the language differences didn’t act as a barrier: we were there with a common purpose to make our ocean economy stronger and ecosystem healthier.

Joshua Berger, fifth from the right in a black sweater, stands with a group of Washington maritime leaders visiting Norway. The group had just finished taking an all-electric ferry ride. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Berger)

My presentation focused on how the governor’s strategy engages key players to find consensus and draw out leadership and action. I was the only American invited and I spoke alongside key leaders in the blue economy:

  • UN’s Special Envoy to the Ocean, Ambassador Thomson,
  • Norway’s ministry of Climate and Environment Deputy Director General, Per Schive,
  • Karen-Maae C. Hill, high commissioner to the Court of Saint James for Antigua and Barbuda, and
  • Ambassador Alvaro Meneonca Moura, ministry of foreign affairs, Portugal.

From there, I traveled to Bergen, Norway and presented on the biggest challenges and opportunities in the ocean agenda for policy makers over the next five years. My presentation focused on the potential for global impact and our global connections.

Berger stands with Vivian Lunde from Innovation Norway, a group that manages maritime clean tech public and private organizations. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Berger)

I joined western Norway’s maritime leaders and 1,600 other attendees in the country’s largest concert hall as we participated in the Vestland Konferansen event. Even though 90 percent of the 7-hour production that day was in Norwegian, the language of art and innovation can sometimes be universal — I watched as many of the segments as I could.

Today, Washington’s maritime sector is a $37 billion industry, employing over 190,000 jobs. Compared to maritime sectors in other regions around the world, our ocean strategy is unique because it leverages information technology and clean tech sectors to lead unique pilot projects, some of which are already underway. If we move forward as a multi-disciplinary, inclusive, revenue-generating, forward-leaning industry, Washington will become one of the top examples of a sustainable, blue economy.

We consider ourselves leaders in sustainable environmental performance and best practices, things like how we design and build ships, explore alternative fuels, sustain our fisheries, and create ocean technology.

Kare Aas, the Norwegian Ambassador to the U.S., visited Seattle in May 2018 and met with the governor about electrifying the state’s ferries. (Photo courtesy of Joshua Berger)

The governor’s ocean economy vision joins other countries’ visions of developing a global, sustainable blue economy to address the pressing issues of our time. As we tackle the challenges of change, we must remember that it is traditional to be innovative, and that within this paradox lies our brilliant future.

It can be risky to trail blaze. It requires significant capital investment, and it can prove challenging to build trust with community stakeholders. But the world considers our state a trail blazer in the blue economy.

Now, as a parent raising my children to be sailors and stewards — wandering the beaches from Port Townsend to Cumberland Island — I cannot help but push this audacious plan. It is an honor to represent the governor’s vision and my community, and I’m proud to protect something so deeply connected to my life.