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The Columbia Press

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State's maritime workers ready for retirement while number of jobs increasing

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Oregon’s maritime workforce is diverse and plays a key economic role in many coastal and rural communities, including Clatsop County.

There were nearly 19,000 maritime jobs in Oregon in 2017, with average wages exceeding most other industries, according to the state. Maritime jobs include commercial fishers who live in Oregon and other states but fish the state’s waters, those who live and pay taxes in Oregon but fish elsewhere and active mariners in the U.S. Coast Guard or Navy.

A task force created by the state Legislature in 2017 was charged with describing the industry, determining labor market information and working out a plan for maritime workforce development, since it appears the sector is growing.

The task force sunsets at the end of the year and the group presented its findings this month.

A challenge for the state is that the maritime workforce is aging, with many employees will retire or change careers within the next 10 years. Many job openings are expected, presenting the problem of ensuring adequately trained replacements.

To measure maritime employment, the task force sought information from employee and licensing records as well as government data on service members.

Of the nearly 19,000 maritime workers, it found there were 10,019 covered by Oregon’s Unemployment Insurance program, 3,498 commercial fishers in Oregon, 1,447 distant waters (such as Alaska) commercial fishers, 2,598 mariners with a Coast Guard credential and 1,653 active-duty Coast Guard or Navy service members.

** Types of jobs

The primary industries for workers covered by state unemployment (in order): support activities or water transportation, ship-building and repairing, seafood product preparation and packaging, fish and seafood merchant wholesalers, boat dealers, boat builders, aquaculture, scenic and sightseeing transportation, finfish fishing, sea transportation, marina workers, fish and seafood markets, inland water freight and passenger transportation and shellfish fishing.

In 1999, the state Legislature excluded from unemployment insurance fishing services performed by workers on boats with crews of less than 10 individuals where the payment is based on the share of the catch.

As a result, covered employment data captures less than 10 percent of commercial fishing employment in Oregon. Because of this, the Oregon Employment Department creates separate estimates for commercial fishing employment.

Oregon’s 23 public ports support the maritime sector in multiple ways and their employment is counted in more than one industry, so port employment is not shown as a separate line in the table. However, Oregon’s maritime ports workforce accounted for 772 jobs and a total payroll of nearly $59 million in 2017.

** Wages

Oregon’s covered maritime industries paid nearly $608 million in wages in 2017. The average annual wage of covered jobs was $60,853. That’s 19 percent higher than Oregon’s overall annual wage of $51,117.

Average wages vary depending on industry, ranging from a low of $27,850 in fish and seafood markets to a high of $139,144 in sea and coastal transportation.

The average annual wage is based on the 10,000 jobs covered by the unemployment insurance program. Wage information is not available for commercial fishing, active mariners, or military service members.

** Importance

Maritime sector jobs are prevalent on the Oregon Coast, of course.

Clatsop County has 5.2 percent of its total workforce employed in the maritime sector, second only to Sherman (12.9 percent) and Lincoln (6.5 percent). Sherman County tops the list because U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jobs at John Day Dam are considered part of the state’s maritime workforce.

The maritime sector workforce tends to be older than the overall workforce. About 27 percent of jobs in Oregon’s covered fishing, maritime manufacturing, and transportation jobs are held by workers age 55 and older. That’s a higher share than the 23 percent found in the overall workforce.

Maritime industries with the most workers nearing retirement are support activities for water transportation (466 jobs), ship and boat building (390 jobs), and seafood product preparation and packaging (316 jobs).

The industry with the largest share of workers age 55 and older is sea and coastal transportation (32 percent).

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