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Shipbuilders to Senators: Help Us Modernize Vessels, Create Jobs

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Bellamy Pailthorp
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KPLU
U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, toured Seattle's Fishermen's Terminal.

How do you create jobs in Seattle and Alaska? By building fishing boats here and hiring workers who might otherwise only get jobs in fast-food restaurants.

That’s the message from a roundtable gathered for U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Mark Begich, D-Alaska, in Seattle Thursday.

The problem is access to capital, according to the panel of representatives of the shipbuilding industry that builds and supports fishing boats for Seattle’s fleet.

Cantwell toured Fishermen’s Terminal where one moored boat had been recently updated. But she said she heard concerns from the fishing industry that needs to modernize many of its vessels.

“So how are we going to approach that, and what are the challenges that the industry faces?” Cantwell said.

From the president of the Port Commission to the people training young workers for work aboard ships and processors, the consensus from the panel, whose speeches will become part of the congressional record, is that there isn’t money available to finance new infrastructure or ships.

Industry leaders are asking the federal government to issue bonds with long-term fixed-interest rates to help finance new vessels. The proposal would create jobs for everything, from fidgeting youngsters who can’t stand to work behind desks all the way up to the long-term unemployed.

The idea is that all of them could eventually find a job somewhere along the waterfront if such a loan program is approved.

Cantwell and Begich said they’re working to find a solution.

Bellamy Pailthorp covers the environment beat for KNKX, where she has worked since 1999. From 2000-2012, she covered the business and labor beat. Bellamy has a deep interest in Indigenous affairs and the Salish Sea. She has a masters in journalism from Columbia University.
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