Maritime Blue: Washington’s strategy for a “Blue Economy”

Inslee’s advisory council presents plan to accelerate maritime tech innovation, create jobs, protect the environment and ensure industry sustainability and growth

Gov. Jay Inslee launched the Maritime Blue 2050 initiative Tuesday, the first initiative of its kind in the country to bolster innovations in the maritime sector that create living-wage jobs, protect the environment and ensure sustainability for the industry. The initiative is meant to build on Washington’s strengths as a global leader in maritime technology innovation and best practices.

As part of that launch, the governor created the Maritime Innovation Advisory Council to develop a comprehensive plan for stakeholders to accelerate and support technology, innovation and best practices throughout the state’s entire maritime industry. The Advisory Council presented the governor with their report today at the Maritime Blue Strategy roll-out in Seattle.

Washington’s maritime sector includes commercial fishing and seafood, recreational boating and sport fishing; shipping and cargo handling; shipbuilding, repair and maintenance; passenger ferries; military and defense; ocean science technologies; and maritime support businesses.

Gov. Jay Inslee joins Maritime Sector Lead Joshua Berger and others on the on the Schooner Adventuress, Puget Sound’s official Environmental Tallship in Port Townsend, WA, July 2018. (Office of the Governor photo)

“Maritime activity has long been a pillar of our state’s economy, and we are uniquely positioned to lead the country in maritime innovation,” Inslee said. “This initiative allows us to show the nation that we can adopt new management practices and clean technologies while creating living-wage jobs for Washingtonians.”

The Strategy Framework consists of a five primary Strategic Goals, all underpinned by pathways for development, initiatives, demonstration projects and recommendations.

The five goals include:

  • Thriving, low-carbon, industry through deep de-carbonization
  • Global Innovation Hub, through accelerating Blue Technology
  • Growing gateways, through supporting working waterfronts
  • 21st century workforce, through inclusive and diverse workforce development
  • World-Class Cluster, through an independent, strategic organization

Compared to maritime industries in other states, the new Washington Maritime Blue cluster organization will be able to leverage the expertise of world-class information and communications technology and clean tech sectors to carry out the cutting edge pilot projects outlined in this strategy.

“Maritime activity has long been a pillar of our state’s economy, and we are uniquely positioned to lead the country in maritime innovation,” Inslee said.

A primary recommendation of the strategy is to support the development and construction of a Maritime Innovation Center. Inslee’s proposed capital budget includes $5 million on top of the Port of Seattle’s investment in the renovation of the Seattle Ship’s Supply Building at Fishermen’s Terminal to the highest green building standards. The Center is designed to support technology acceleration, incubation and act as a focal point for maritime sustainability.

  • Support technology development for maritime decarbonization and electrification.
  • Leverage regional expertise in high-tech software and data companies to introduce disruptive technologies in the maritime field.
  • Introduce young people to exciting new careers and support maritime workforce development.
  • Support early stage maritime companies and product development with a hub-and-spoke model of collaboration across the entire maritime sector in Washington state.
  • Raise the profile of maritime industries.

At the same time, it can be risky to be a trailblazer — it can require significant capital investment and it can prove challenging to build trust with community stakeholders. Support from local, state and federal policy governments, particularly in their roles as creators of policies and regulations and as stakeholder conveners, will be key to success.

The Maritime Blue Advisory Council is co-chaired by Rep. Gael Tarleton, Vigor CEO Frank Foti, and former Region 10 Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency, Dennis McLerran. The council also includes representatives from tribal governments and leaders in business, labor, technology and environmental groups.

Gov. Jay Inslee with Maritime Innovation Advisory Council co-chairs, from left, Vigor CEO Frank Foti, state Rep. Gael Tarleton, and Dennis McLerran, former Environmental Protection Agency Region 10 administrator. (Governor’s Office photo)

“The Washington Maritime Blue strategy aligns with many of our state’s current initiatives such as our Clean Energy future plans, Career Connect Washington, the Southern Resident Orca Task Force, as well as the Washington State Ferry System’s long-range plan. By working together we can maximize our impact, conserve resources, help protect the environment and ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of this industry,” Inslee said.

Joshua Berger, the governor’s Maritime Sector Lead, said it’s been an honor to develop this strategy in partnership with maritime stakeholders.

“This strategy is more than just words — it’s an action plan that will be led by the independent Washington Maritime Blue Cluster organization,” Berger said. “The result will be a world-class, thriving sustainable Washington maritime industry by 2050.”