Maritime Day 2015: Creating a Unified Voice for Washington’s Maritime Industry

When we think of top industries in Washington state, we often think of aerospace, agriculture, IT and retail. But there’s another major Washington industry that’s frequently overlooked, which directly supports 57,000 jobs and contributes $30 billion to the state economy: the maritime industry.

To ensure our state policymakers understand the critical role the maritime industry plays in Washington’s trade economy, WCIT and over 100 representatives of the newly-organized Washington Maritime Federation traveled to Olympia last Tuesday for our first Maritime Day. Together we met with over 40 Washington state legislators and shared the message that maritime is an integral piece of Washington’s economic strength.

Historically, the maritime industry – because of its diverse composition that includes shipbuilding, fishing, water transportation, logistics and shipping – has never spoken with a unified voice on shared priorities…which is part of the reason that it has never been recognized as much as it should. The new Washington Maritime Federation is an association of associations, composed of maritime organizations and business organizations who have come together to support the industry and to ensure that it gets the support it needs to grow and thrive. For WCIT, so much of the maritime industry is key to our success as a trade economy, whether it be the carriers who move goods in and out of our state or the maritime businesses that create the goods and services that engage globally.

On Maritime Day, we discussed the following priorities in our meetings with legislators:

  • Maritime deserves to be recognized by state lawmakers as a vital industry for our state, and they should enact policies that not only protect it, but also invest in its growth.
  • Some of these investments include full state funding for a maritime sector lead position in the State Department of Commerce; a transportation package that invests in key corridors, last-mile connectors, freight and rail; and dedicated funding for maritime-specific career technical training and education
  • Environmental and land-use regulations, such as the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA), should be in balance with the importance of a sustainable economy and job creation

In addition to meeting with numerous legislators on these issues, members of the Washington Maritime Federation presented at the House Higher Education Committee on the need for supporting workforce development, education and training for maritime-related careers.

Perhaps the highlight of the day was hearing from elected officials like Representative Gael Tarleton and Washington Governor Jay Inslee about their personal passion for the maritime industry. They both thanked the members of the Maritime Federation for getting organized, and urged us to continue making our voices heard in Olympia so that maritime initiatives can get the support they deserve.

Thanks to Maritime Day and the Washington Maritime Federation, our state legislators now know that the maritime industry has a unified vision and collective voice. It’s now up to us to continue informing them on how they can be champions for the industry and support policies and investments that will strengthen Washington state’s international competitiveness.

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