NEW BEDFORD, Mass. (WPRI) — New Bedford’s fishing port is transforming to accommodate a massive wind farm off its coast, but it’s getting mixed opinions.
Some fishermen are concerned that physically and financially there isn’t room for both industries in the harbor, but city leaders see this as an opportunity to create more jobs.
It’s the most lucrative fishing port in the country, 20 years and counting, with fishing boats double and even quadruple docked.
“Economic development is about making the most of your advantages and here in New Bedford, our biggest advantages are right here in the port,” New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell said.
While Mitchell is aware of the fishermen’s needs, he also wants to be known as a national hub for supporting offshore wind.
The Marine Commerce Terminal is set to be home to the staging, storage, and manufacturing of the turbines, as well as decades of maintenance to the Vineyard Wind Project, set to be built off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard.
The old Cannon Street power station will soon be the “Foss Marine Terminal” which will be used as a staging area for offshore wind projects.
A research ship in the harbor is being used to map out how the wind turbines will be placed in the ocean — each blade is about the length of a football field.
“We think we’ve got some cards to play and it includes all the port infrastructure and the proximity to the wind farms, but we also know that we have a strong work force and getting them ready for the offshore wind industry is really key,” Mitchell explained.
That translates to potentially thousands of long-term jobs for New Bedford, and local schools are making use of the potential.
Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School Superintendent Michael Watson said they have even created a marine technology program to prepare students for these jobs in the future.
“We see welding as a definite program that can provide a pipeline, engineering, electrical, marine services, these are all programs that provide opportunities for a large number of our kids that we think the skills they’re learning here could also transition pretty well to the offshore wind industry in New Bedford,” Watson said.
At Bristol Community College (BCC), they offer basic and advanced safety and technical training programs to prepare workers for jobs in construction, deployment, operations and maintenance of offshore wind farms.
BCC is also investing $10 million into a training facility called the National Offshore Wind Institute along the water. They will hire locals to become the trainers, providing two week, intense, skills and safety training.
“Demolition is complete and construction is started,” Angela Johnston, Director of Business Solutions and Partnerships at BCC, said. “Then we’ll also have a training tank which is a deep-water pool where they work on rescuing themselves out of a dangerous situation. There’s nothing like this closer than Maryland.”
The Nonprofit New Bedford Ocean Cluster is serving as a liaison between Vineyard Wind and local companies to keep the contracts and jobs local.