Re-Port of New Bedford Dec. 2020

By Steven Froias

For the New Bedford Ocean Cluster

There’s little argument to be had that the past year was a tumultuous one. A global pandemic and a fraught election, both with consequences that bled into society at large and helped turn it onto itself in unforeseen ways, have a tendency to make waves. 

As unsettled as things still seem to be, the new year dawns with much promise on the horizon. 

We’ve been here before in the Port of New Bedford. Well over a century ago the titanic shift away from whale oil to fossil fuels transformed this harbor and this city. While it is easy to romanticize the whaling era, it was in fact savage and brutal and was ready for extinction. 

Since that time, this port has emerged as a leader in commercial fishing, the number port by value in the nation, a wholly more sustainable position. It’s also grown over the 20th century into a hub of commerce, recreation and, now, a nascent vessel for another ocean-based industry, off-shore wind. 

After the last year, one is hesitant to make predictions or predict any future course of events. However, even during the trials of 2020 the Port of New Bedford was characterized by significant advancement and investment – which bodes well for 2021 and beyond. 

The arrangement of the New Bedford Ocean Cluster itself and its focus on bringing into alignment all the assets of this great and historic port city – commercial fishing, aquaculture, renewable energy, and blue technology – is in itself a down payment on tomorrow. 

Of course, a port is its people, and the best investment in people is made at an early age. That’s why in summing up the past month we draw your attention to our own report regarding new marine education opportunities at New Bedford High School and Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School. You can read it here

It’s also worth bringing to attention once again that this port is the beneficiary of $20 million in infrastructure investment that will launch it into 2021 in new and dynamic ways. 

And, that it is a founding member of the New Bedford Economic Development Center’s SourceLink initiative, which is designed – like the New Bedford Ocean Cluster – to connect all of this city and region together in purpose and prosperity. 

The Port of New Bedford and the entire New Bedford Ocean Cluster ecosystem also benefits from the larger winds of change sweeping through the nation. There is a sense in the land that investment in place, in what’s sustainable and renewable, will soon be the order of the day. 

This will, naturally, take some sorting out. Recently, Vineyard Wind made news that caused both jubilation and alarm. Cheers to their selection of the magnificent GE turbines to be used in their off-shore wind project; alarm that the permitting process has been somewhat strangled. 

A new administration with an emphasis on renewable energy should clear through the clutter, though. And, as Jamie MacDonald, Director of Operations for the Xodus Group, which is charged with assembling the New Bedford Ocean Cluster, writes, “If something is worth doing, it is worth doing well! While the industry lets out a collective sigh, this latest delay presents opportunities for the local supply chain to enter the offshore wind industry and take advantage of the changing business circumstances, and possibly improve project outcomes.”

Which is exactly what the New Bedford Ocean Cluster, at the Port of New Bedford and in partnership with many others, will set their sights toward in 2021. 

Embarking on a year of change is, after all, part of the legacy of this oceanport city of New Bedford.

On January 3, 1841, no less than Herman Melville boarded the whaling ship Acushnet from these docks – and sailed into immortality. 

He just didn’t know it at the time. 

Happy New Year. 

  • If you’d like to receive more information about your marine organization, business or service becoming a part of the New Bedford Ocean Cluster, please visit NewBedfordOceanCluster.org