Arctic energy could boost maritime industry

FuelFix SquareFuelFix | November 18, 2016 | Matthew Paxton

With all of the amazing innovation going into transportation these days, those unaware might not envisage that such a historic trade as shipbuilding has a place. But in fact, the U.S. shipbuilding and repair industry continues to support more than 500,000 jobs nationwide and contributes over $39 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

Ships, however, are only as good as the jobs that they are applied to – one of which is supporting oil and gas production. Boasting more coastline than the lower 48 states and the possibility for production of several billion barrels of oil, Alaska is representative of the vast potential that America’s Arctic waters hold for the future of the shipbuilding industry. That is if the Arctic leases remain in the Obama Administration’s Five Year Plan.

As president of the Shipbuilders Council of America, I am proud to represent an organization that has advocated for the needs and the benefit of America’s shipping fleet for almost 100 years, including those of the energy industry. In supporting the production and transport of energy resources, the oil and gas industry – and particularly the Arctic Outer Continental Shelf – spurs Arctic communities to be more connected due to the infrastructure that offshore projects help create. Among other things, Arctic OCS exploration typically requires deep water ports, response ships, and landing strips, all of which would keep those workers safe with the added benefit of keeping our economy moving, and aid our national security capabilities across such a vast territory.

Despite this, activists continue to try to close the door on countless opportunities in the Arctic that would positively impact not just the energy industry and its thousands of jobs, but also other associated offshore industries. Without offshore energy development, many of those crucial infrastructure projects – roads, ports, harbors – may not be completed or maintained. At the same time, international Arctic traffic is expected to increase dramatically in the coming decades, so our communities and businesses must be adequately prepared to address the subsequent safety and commercial needs.

Read the full op-ed here.

Matthew Paxton is president of the Shipbuilders Council of America, the national trade association representing the U.S. shipyard industry.