Just over a year ago, Gov. Jay Inslee launched his “Washington Maritime Blue” initiative. It aims to make the state’s seafaring sector the most sustainable in the nation, by boosting innovations and clean technology that help the environment and also grow jobs.
The initiative was funded with a $500,000 grant from the federal government.
Now, a Maritime Blue advisory council has rolled out the organization’s mission and strategic plan to grow the sector through 2050.
Inslee spoke at the event on Seattle’s waterfront. He says with its deep maritime history and strong high tech workforce, Washington is perfectly poised to excel in this sector.
“We will decarbonize our maritime system and we will create jobs by the bucketful at the same time,” Inslee said, adding that he wants those jobs to be in-state. “What we have done for software, what we have done for aerospace, we’re going to do for maritime in Washington state in decarbonizing and leading the world economy.”
Electrifying Washington state ferries is one of the early goals of Maritime Blue and one of its pilot projects; work on it started last year. The initiative also has launched a Maritime Innovation Center in partnership with the Port of Seattle and the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Lab, to support startup technologies. And there’s a Youth Maritime Collaborative that is connecting public high school students with internships and other pathways to waterfront careers. This is an especially important goal, given the aging maritime workforce.
The strategic plan document is 81 pages long and sets five overarching goals, with detailed "development pathways" describing how to achieve them. The goals include creating a thriving low-carbon industry and making Washington’s maritime sector a global innovation hub, as well as growing the sector to lead the nation in efficient, clean and safe practices.
MODERNIZING OLD INDUSTRIES
Among the demonstration projects highlighted at the strategy launch was a startup called ioCurrents. Its products and business model are just the kind of venture Maritime Blue wants more of: ioCurrents uses the latest technology to improve legacy operations. The company's software automates data processing on ships.
“Because there’s a huge growth in the amount of data on vessels. And it’s more than people can make sense of in real time while they’re so busy operating the boat,” said Cosmo King, the company's co-founder and CEO. He says seeing the data saves his clients money, on things such as maintenance and fuel.
“They can become more efficient, more profitable, and meet sustainability goals,” King said.
King added that he founded ioCurrents, along with his partner, before the state’s launch of Maritime Blue, a venture that could have offered much-needed support; both partners sold their homes to finance the startup. But they’re taking full advantage of Martime Blue now – for example, joining a trade mission to Norway, the industry leader for clean maritime technology.
“We have learned what is the current state of the art in Norway ," King said. "And we may be able to do it better.”
King says ioCurrents is poised for growth and those kinds of global connections are not something they could get on their own.