Op-Ed: Arctic Energy Could Boost Maritime Industry

November 18, 2016

The following op-ed was written by SCA President Matthew Paxton regarding potential shipbuilding opportunities resulting from Arctic oil and gas exploration. 

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 wou

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.

The recent voyage of the Crystal Serenity gave us a glimpse at what the new Arctic future will look like with increased shipping and tourism in the region. It is crucial that the U.S. has the tools in place to respond to any incidents that occur with this rise in activity – including a capable Naval fleet.

The partnership between the shipbuilding and energy industries is just one example of cross-industry collaboration that is necessary for Alaska and the U.S. Arctic region to reach its full potential. This past September, a coalition of 21 groups supportive of responsible resource development in Alaska, including the Alaska Chamber of Commerce, the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, the Alaskan Federation of Labor and others, continued their efforts with an advertising campaign calling on the Obama Administration to allow for the possibility of lease sales to be held for federally controlled tracts in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. SCA members support this effort and are ready to move forward with Arctic projects if the Administration decides to maintain these options.

Similar sentiments were raised this month by the group Arctic Iñupiat Offshore, whose president, Anthony Edwardsen, eloquently said, “While environmental groups warn Washington about the dangers of including the leases, few outsiders seem to give thought to the consequences of not including them.”

Oil and gas projects offer an opportunity to support the communities whose livelihoods depend on the development of economic opportunities in these remote areas; economic opportunities and jobs the Arctic critically needs.

Arctic energy development provides America with the chance to bolster its strength as a maritime nation, with Alaska at the very forefront of that effort. The benefits of Arctic offshore drilling will be felt far beyond the oil and gas industry and the Shipbuilder’s Council of America believes a future that includes Arctic OCS development bodes well for our members, Alaska, and the American people.

The original article can be found here: http://fuelfix.com/blog/2016/11/18/commentary-arctic-energy-could-boost-maritime-industry

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