With 3,200 miles of shoreline, 50,000 miles of rivers and streams and direct access to the Pacific Ocean, the maritime industry has shaped Washington State for hundreds of years. The maritime sector supports a broad range of industries, including maritime logistics and shipping, commercial fishing and seafood production, ship and boat building, repair and maintenance, passenger transportation, and recreational boating.
Thousands of companies benefit from the state’s deep pool of maritime talent, from skilled tradespeople and craftsmen to technicians and technologists who are ushering in a new age of maritime opportunities. These companies are leveraging Washington’s global reputation as a leader in technology, advanced materials and clean energy to devise a new generation of vessels that are more efficient, faster, cleaner and more profitable to operate in the harshest of environments.
The industry is as diverse as it is rich in maritime heritage. Multigenerational boat builders are joined by up-and-comers exploring deep-sea exploration vehicles and autonomous craft. Electric propulsion for recreational watercraft is another opportunity being explored by entrepreneurs and startups. For those who need to put their ideas through their paces, the Puget Sound, the Salish Sea and the Pacific Ocean are the perfect testing grounds.
- Washington’s maritime sector encompasses 2,300 companies that employ approximately 62,000 workers.
- The industry generates more than $24.1 billion in revenue and $7.5 billion in wages annually.
- 2% of jobs in Washington are maritime-related and an additional 3.8% of the workforce supports the industry.
- The historical annual growth rate for the sector has been 3% to 6%.
- The Northwest Seaport Alliance is the fourth-largest container gateway in North America, handling approximately $75 billion in waterborne trade.
- Nearly 700 fishing and seafood operations are located in Washington, and the state is the largest producer of hatchery-reared and farmed shellfish.
- The state has the highest per capita boat usage in the nation – 250,000+ watercraft ply Washington’s waterways for business and pleasure.
- Of the 117 shipyards in the U.S., nearly a quarter are located in Washington State.
- The state is developing the most sustainable maritime industry in the nation through its Maritime Blue strategy, which is focused on deep de-carbonization, innovation and workforce development.
Washington’s maritime sector is divided into six main business lines, creating a diverse yet synergistic ecosystem.
- Maritime Logistics & Shipping: Includes long-distance, transoceanic and river cargo shipping and related planning, routing and warehousing. This segment also includes sensors, navigation systems and other systems and instruments that contribute to safe and effective cargo/freight shipping operations.
- Commercial Fishing & Seafood Products: Covers the full value chain of seafood production, from fishing and aquaculture related to finfish and shellfish to seafood packaging and seafood market operations.
- Ship and Boat Building, Repair & Maintenance: Includes the building of naval and civilian cargo ships, barges, submarines, passenger ships and drilling platforms; also includes the dry docking, servicing and repair of vessels.
- Passenger Water Transportation: Includes local passenger water transportation (e.g., ferries in coastal areas, harbors, rivers and lakes) and cruise ship operations.
- Recreational Boating: Includes sightseeing cruising, charter fishing boat services and airboats. It also includes the operation of marinas that provide storage, fueling, maintenance and rental services for such boats and boating activities
- Support Services & Marine Technology: Fueling operations, marine electronics, refrigeration and gear manufacturers, research and development, supplies, naval architects and other professional services. Includes environmental services, naval science and technology and energy-related activities.
A new generation of vessels is on the horizon as operators look to more efficient craft that take advantage of advances in hydrodynamics, composites, electronics, software and propulsion. A good example is the longline vessel F/V Blue North, built by Dakota Creek Industries in Anacortes, Washington. One of the first fishing vessels of its kind, the ship meets Tier III emission standards and allows non-targeted species to be released back into the wild.
Work is also underway on new autonomous submersibles that can conduct maintenance underwater, hybrid engines that can shift seamlessly from conventional fuels to electric, onshore monitoring of ship systems while they are at sea, and AI-assisted technologies to spot faltering equipment and repair it before it causes a problem, or worse, a catastrophe. Big data is being utilized to steer ships into more efficient routes, reshaping hulls so they cut through the water more efficiently while reducing noise, and scheduling port arrivals and departures to minimize time at anchor.
To advance the state’s bold initiative to significantly reduce its carbon footprint by 2045, the Department of Transportation has ordered the first of several new hybrid-electric Olympic Class ferries to be added to the fleet. The greener ferries will reduce nitric oxide emissions by 146 metric tons per year and CO2 emissions by 16,340 metric tons annually. Three Jumbo Mark II ferries will be converted from diesel to hybrid-electric propulsion to supplement the new construction. The reduction in carbon emissions for these three ferries will be the equivalent of removing 10,000 cars off the road.
- Washington Public Ports Association
- Northwest Marine Trade Association
- American Boat and Yacht Council
Worforce Training Resources
- University of Washington, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs
- University of Washington, School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences
- Seattle Central Community College, Seattle Maritime Academy
- Pacific Maritime Institute
- Northwest Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing and Technology
- Washington Sea Grant Program
- Shoreline Community College, Center for Manufacturing Excellence
- Edmonds Community College, Materials Science Technology Program
As part of its strategy to drive innovation in the maritime sector, Washington’s Department of Commerce, WeWork Labs and the Port of Seattle have partnered to create a Maritime Accelerator program to support companies that are bringing new ideas to market and the industry. The four-month program offers them workspace, seminars, workshops and access to mentors and advisers who can help them navigate challenges and remove obstacles. The state and port have also partnered on a new 12,000 square foot Maritime Innovation Center which will be located in the old Ship Supply Building at Fishermen’s Terminal. When the center opens in 2023, it will become the permanent home of the accelerator program.
Water runs deep in our veins.
Our commitment to our maritime traditions extends into education as well. Public-private partnerships ensure a steady stream of highly educated and trained workers who are not only schooled in marine science but also aerospace, software, hardware, electronics and even nanotechnologies.
The University of Washington offers coursework through its School of Marine and Environmental Affairs and School of Aquatic & Fishery Sciences. There is also Seattle Central College’s Seattle Maritime Academy, the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies/Pacific Maritime Institute. The Northwest Center of Excellence for Marine Manufacturing and Technology and the Materials Science Technology program at Edmonds Community College offer certificate and degree programs, ensuring that Washington’s maritime industry remains strong and rich in know-how and in-demand trade skills.
We’re waiting on the line for you.
If you’re in the business of building amazing products or offering cutting edge services to the maritime industry, consider Washington State. We offer visionary businesses a critical mass of companies to partner with, academic partnerships that ensure a continuous stream of highly qualified workers, an innovative, collaborative marketplace where the best and brightest ideas reach the market quickly, and a quality of life that is nothing short of paradise, for sailors and landlubbers alike.
Give us a call at (206) 256-6100 or email one of our business experts on the top of the page to find out more about about the waves of opportunity awaiting you in Washington State.
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