Washington Maritime Blue launches ambitious plan for economic growth, jobs, ocean health

Washington state’s diverse maritime sector establishes cluster organization, rallies around collaborative strategy to achieve decarbonization, global innovation hub, 21st Century workforce, growing working waterfronts.

SEATTLE, Wash. – Gov. Jay Inslee today joined his Maritime Innovation Advisory Council and a host of leading voices for the roll out of Washington Maritime Blue, a comprehensive plan setting the course for taking the industry to the highest level of global clean maritime leadership.

From innovative vessel design and electrification to clean technology in our ports; sustainable fishing practices to career-connected workforce development, Washington state’s $37+ billion maritime industry sector is a model for environmental performance and best practices.

Visit Washington Maritime Blue’s website.

Around the globe, maritime economies are addressing impacts to climate change and equality through innovation and entrepreneurship. The United Nations proclaimed 2021-2030 the Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, and major global economic forums including the World Bank have declared a major paradigm shift that places science and knowledge at the center of a sustainable, ocean-based economy.

Washington is the first U.S. state to join with leading international maritime clusters, such as Norway and Singapore, in implementing a strategy for building the world’s “blue economy.” A confluence of factors positions the state well for the task.  Washington’s maritime industry is already a global leader in environmental performance and best practices. Exceptional strengths in IT and clean technology, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, and military and defense bolster the maritime cluster. Coupled with top research institutions, collaborative education and workforce initiatives, and a culture of entrepreneurship supported by public and private investment, Washington is at the center of a perfect storm for accelerating maritime innovation.

“I congratulate and thank everyone who has been part of the vision and commitment to implementing Washington Maritime Blue,” said Gov. Jay Inslee. “I am proud that Washington is among those charting the course to ocean health and sustainable maritime practices. The transition is happening now in our state.”

Developed over a year-long stakeholder process, the Washington Maritime Blue strategy and actions are organized around five core goals:

  • Shifting toward a thriving, low-carbon industry: Accelerate deep decarbonization of the industry.
  • Becoming a global innovation hub: Drive commercialization of “blue” technologies.
  • Growing gateways: Lead the nation in efficient, clean and safe working waterfronts.
  • Supporting a 21st Century workforce: Support the next generation, inclusive maritime workforce with tech expertise for clean, healthful, living-wage jobs.
  • Establishing a world-class maritime cluster: Formalize a nonprofit organization to implement Washington Maritime Blue collaboration to ensure a strong industry founded on competitive companies and an attractive business climate.

“Washington’s maritime, fishing, and recreational boating industries are the backbone of the most trade-centric economy in the country. Tens of thousands of family-wage jobs in the maritime trades have transformed communities throughout our region and state. Now, we must find paths to give future generations of Washingtonians access to these jobs and opportunities. New technologies require new skills. Innovative strategies that integrate educational programs and skill-based workforce development will ensure that we retain and expand our region’s unique maritime expertise. By working together, we can have smart, green ports that attract business from all over the world…and thousands of jobs in a clean-trade maritime economy that works for all of us,” said State Representative Gael Tarleton.

“Creating a more efficient, more competitive, more collaborative and cleaner maritime industry will mean green jobs, better air quality in our communities and a healthier climate. Becoming a global center for innovation creates and preserves the family-wage jobs that the maritime industry has long provided in Washington. Congratulations to Governor Inslee for having the foresight to establish this effort and to the participants on the Advisory Committee and working groups. Implementation of key elements of the strategy is already underway, and I am excited to be part of this important effort,” said Dennis McLerran, Cascadia Law Group.

“I’m honored to have had the opportunity to co-chair Maritime Blue, which is aimed at a vision for Washington to be home to a world-class, thriving and sustainable maritime industry by 2050. To be successful, this strategy must be iterative, adapting to achieve this vision as we proceed. At Vigor we believe tomorrow’s economic opportunities involve sustainable solutions. Identifying courageous and committed long-term investment will allow the maritime industry to lead in a way that honors our precious environment, accelerates innovation and creates great opportunities for skilled workers,” said Frank Foti, CEO, Vigor.

Antony M. Dsouza, DNV-GL executive vice president of Maritime Americas, spoke at today’s roll out event about the vast growth opportunities in the world’s blue economy.

“The need for sustainability is changing industries faster than ever before and supporting innovation. With innovation come new opportunities,” said Dsouza.  “Maritime clusters across the globe are shaping developments that will set the future direction for a sustainable industry.  The Washington State maritime cluster has built on a strong foundation, and by implementing this strategy, the state can assume a world-class position among those who are leading this transition.”

“Innovation, entrepreneurship and clean technology – this is the fuel of our state’s economic engine across all key industry sectors. Today we’ve zeroed in on a confluence of competitive strengths and boundless opportunities in sustainable maritime – it’s time to invest in the future blue economy. Commerce is eager to support the new cluster organization as it organizes to implement the Washington Maritime Blue strategy. Strategic sector development efforts such as this strengthen communities of all sizes, all over the state, for decades,” said Brian Bonlender, director, Washington Department of Commerce.

Pilot Projects Underway

Washington Maritime Blue is committed to developing maritime business, technology and practices that promote a sustainable future with a growing economy, healthy coastal and marine ecosystems and resilient communities.  Key projects and implementing organizations are identified; many are underway:

  • Electrification of state and regional ferries to reduce air and noise emissions and establish a competitive edge in sustainable vessel design and manufacturing. Current goals include conversion of two existing state ferries, two new hybrid electric ferries, planned Skagit County all-electric ferry and high-speed passenger ferries across the region.
  • Maritime Innovation Center to house cluster programs, co-working space, incubation and commercialization of technology. The Port of Seattle has committed $10.5 million; Gov. Inslee has proposed additional $5 million in state funding.
  • Youth Maritime Collaborative is committed to guiding young people into maritime careers, with a focus on underrepresented communities through experiential events, high school internships and connecting employers with the next generation of workers, such as the Goodwill partnership with Seattle Schools.
  • Remove barriers to innovation by working with regulatory agencies to create a process for blue innovation projects that meet sustainable economic development criteria. This could include a maritime innovation validation zone and designated in-water location for streamlined permitting, research, demonstration, testing and evaluation of new technologies.

Fast Facts: What is the Ocean Opportunity?

  • Ocean economy is expected to double by 2030 to $3 trillion
  • 97 percent of earth’s water is in the oceans
  • 98 percent of habitable earth is underwater
  • 90 percent of the ocean is unexplored
  • 80 percent of people live near the shore
  • 5 billion people will need protein
  • 90 percent of goods are transported by ocean
  • Infinite clean tidal, wave and wind energy

Why Washington in the Blue Economy?

Washington state already has a culture of securing competitive advantage by embracing innovation and sustainability. For example, it is currently home to:​

  • A diverse and interdependent maritime industry with strong leadership in environmental best practices and technology investment. ​
  • Industry-leading research institutions and capabilities in ocean science and marine energy. ​
  • One of the nation’s strongest tech sectors with extraordinary talent and willing capital.  ​
  • A fishing and seafood sector managing the most productive and sustainable wild fishing grounds in the world. ​
  • Leadership capabilities and support for advanced manufacturing across sectors from aerospace, military and defense, clean technology, and shipbuilding. ​
  • World-class naval architects, marine engineers, and service providers. ​
  • Ports, shipping, and logistics sector meeting and exceeding environmental impact goals and regulations.​
  • A vibrant recreational boating community connected to a strong maritime supply chain.​
  • A world-class network of formal, informal, and youth education and training institutions.​
  • A strong environmental ethic, that when focused towards creative and pragmatic solutions, will support the state’s growing Blue investments and economy.


Sarah Lee, (206) 898-2025, sarah.lee@commerce.wa.gov

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