The Golden State’s golden opportunity
“Go West young man, go West.”
These words by author Horace Greeley in the mid-1800s helped spur the American westward movement that ultimately created the state of California. Tomorrow marks National Maritime Day, and Greeley’s words resonate all the more strongly for the citizens of our maritime state as we embark upon the American Pacific century. We need only look West once more to find golden opportunities on our Pacific doorstep.
California’s gross domestic product last year was nearly two trillion dollars. Our state is the world’s 12th largest economy. California’s prosperity, and the economic recovery of our nation depend heavily upon trade — Asian trade — a condition that is likely to accelerate in the decades ahead. Eight of our top 10 global trading partners are in Asia, and — due to the immutable laws of geography — these crucial players in our economic destiny cannot be reached by train or truck. They can only be reached efficiently by sea. California’s position, astride sea lanes running East-West or North-South in the Pacific, has given coastal cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach and San Francisco a distinct financial advantage. Looking West — to the “Far East” — we will find incredible opportunity.
It is staggering that 90 percent of global trade moves by ship and that 95 percent of the total value in goods traded worldwide moves over the sea. Californians benefit not only by geography, but also in the number of well-paying jobs in maritime industries. Whether they work as merchant mariners, longshoremen, fishermen, cruise line operators, maritime security personnel or commercial shipyard workers, California’s maritime professionals are working almost unnoticed behind the scenes to propel our economy forward. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 20 percent growth in maritime transportation worker jobs throughout this decade. Opportunity is knocking — and California is the nation’s door to the Pacific.
California’s maritime industries comprise a profession that is, perhaps counter-intuitively, the greenest of all the transportation modes — and these same industries continue to become greener. Maritime movement of goods, whether across the Pacific or to inland ports such as Stockton and Sacramento, produces less than one-third of the carbon footprint of highway vehicles while consuming only one-quarter of the fuel that such vehicles require to move the same amount of cargo. California state universities, in partnership with the maritime profession, are actively conducting research to further reduce environmental impacts and to improve environmental stewardship of our marine “highway.” Maritime professionals and researchers deliver significant comparative advantage economically and environmentally and, again, California stands to benefit — by looking West.
The maritime profession routinely fuels our state economy through international services including maritime law, marine insurance underwriting, port industrial safety and security and international fuel and maintenance services. The influence of fortunate geography — simply living in a maritime state — boosts our prosperity through global tourism, recreational boating including America’s Cup and the sheer diversity of visitors conducting business with California’s maritime-related businesses.
Again our nation celebrates National Maritime Day. We encourage you to pause to appreciate both the blessings of our maritime geography and the superb contributions that our state’s maritime professions make to our nation’s economic strength. Golden opportunities await the Golden State in the American Pacific century. Look West!
Cropper served as commander, Strike Force Training Pacific for the U.S. Navy, and is the current president of California State University’s Maritime Academy. Garamendi sits on the House Armed Services Committee and is the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.