The United Nations estimates that the world ocean economy–often referred to as the “blue economy”–is worth $1.5 trillion U.S. dollars annually. It follows then, that a strong, competitive U.S. maritime industry is vital to the national and economic security strategy of the United States. To accomplish that goal, both modernizing and expanding our ports and waterways and intermodal connections are missions that call for innovative solutions.
Accordingly, Section 3543 of the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (NDAA–codified at 46 U.S.C 50307 ) establishes a U.S. Center for Maritime Innovation (MInC ) to support the study, research, development, assessment, and deployment of emerging marine technologies and practices related to emerging environmental challenges faced by the maritime transportation system.
Now, the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) is seeking advice and input from the public, interested parties and U.S. entities that would be stakeholders participating in the Center or with certain competencies that could contribute to its desired secretariat function. The specifics on what that entails and how to submit comments are outlined below. The deadline to contribute is October 2, 2023.
The Center for Maritime Innovation will be based at the Port of Seattle’s historic Ship Supply Building at Fishermen’s Terminal (FT), which will be transformed into this new globally recognized home for maritime innovation.
Watch a video introducing this groundbreaking building here:
The Maritime Innovation Center will serve as headquarters for incubator and accelerator programs that are already helping startups and established businesses refine and scale their work. The MInC will also support workforce development programs aimed at ensuring that job opportunities in maritime industries are equitably accessible to all communities. By building a stronger maritime ecosystem, the Maritime Innovation Center will ultimately reach hundreds of startups, established businesses, and local would-be workers.
The major duties of the Center for Maritime Innovation and its working groups are envisioned to include:
- facilitating the development and use of clean energy and necessary infrastructure to support the deployment of clean energy on vessels of the United States;
- monitoring and assessing, on an ongoing basis, the current state of knowledge regarding emerging marine technologies in the United States;
- identifying any significant gaps in emerging marine technologies research specific to the United States maritime industry, and seeking to fill those gaps;
- conducting research, development, testing, and evaluation for equipment, technologies, and techniques related to marine environmental protection;
- providing guidance on best available technologies;
- conducting technical analysis; assisting with understanding complex regulatory requirements; and documenting best practices in the maritime industry, including training and informational webinars on solutions for the maritime industry; and
- working with academic and private sector response training centers and Domestic Maritime Workforce Training and Education Centers of Excellence to develop maritime strategies applicable to various segments of the United States maritime industry, including the inland, deep water, and coastal fleets.
Subject matter working groups will be determined by the Center’s core, but could include:
- development of technologies and practices for minimizing the introduction and spread of aquatic nuisance species;
- mitigation of vessel-generated underwater noise, and emergent environmental issues as identified by the center; and
- decarbonization of the maritime fleet through development and deployment of zero and near-zero fuels, technologies, and policies.
Creating the Center for Maritime Innovation–What Kind of Information is MARAD Seeking?
The purpose of MARAD’s Request for Information (RFI) on the Center For Maritime Innovation is to seek comments and information on:
- the qualities, competencies, and costs required for the secretariat function of such a Center;
- the proposed structure and organization detailed herein; and
- suggestions and experiences with establishing this kind of secretariat, to include but not limited to lessons learned and best practices for form, function, and administration.
Public comment is specifically requested no later than October 2, 2023 on the following:
1. Prospective organizations for hosting the Center, detailed as follows:
(a) Preferably U.S. nonprofits, or qualities of such an organization that could serve as a potential host for undertaking the secretariat function of such a Center as described in Section 3543(e) of the James M. Inhofe National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023.
2. The Center’s structure and organization, detailed as follows:
(a) The Center for Maritime Innovation will foster industry partnerships and active collaboration to find solutions to the most pressing maritime environmental issues in the U.S.
(b) The Center is envisioned to consist of a central executive committee that is guided by MARAD, supported by a non-profit organization to act as a secretariat, and comprised of key stakeholders primarily from the maritime industry (such as ship owners and port operators) but may include representatives from NGOs and academia.
(c) The Center would be responsible for identifying key focus areas of environmental concern to the U.S. maritime industry and developing, deploying, and administering dedicated working groups to address those subjects.
(d) The secretariat will be responsible for recruiting the Center’s committee members, in consultation with MARAD, and for organizing, facilitating, and administration of the Center. Administration tasks may include hosting and facilitating meetings and workshops, identifying key issues for consideration by the committee, and facilitating the development of focus area working groups and the terms of reference that guide their activities.
3. The Center’s method of work, detailed as follows:
(a) Once focus areas are determined by the Center, it will develop dedicated working groups of experts and task them to break down a problem into components that can be further analyzed in order to develop recommendations. Experts will come from both the public and private sector and be matched to the level of need and ambition for specific projects. The central executive committee will assemble periodically to monitor the progress of the working groups and adjust their tasks and resources as needed and ensure that the work is aligned with the pace and substance of MARAD’s relevant strategies. At appropriate intervals, the Center will meet to assess the overall effectiveness of the Center’s work and discuss whether new focus areas and resources are needed.
4. Additional information on practical considerations that can inform implementation of the Center.
- For complete information on how to submit comments, click HERE.
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