Outside world makes tracks to New Bedford

I attended the 64th annual meeting of the North Atlantic Ports Association Thursday and, trust me, I am not going to tell you all about it. Suffice to say there are concerns about who pays for dredging, how we get short sea shipping going and why federal waterfront security ID cards are such a pain to renew.
Then there’s ocean planning.
Planners, I have to tell you, get really excited about planning and databases and mapping. When they get excited, they speak in planner tongues very rapidly so, pretty soon, if you are not a planner yourself, you may well drift off.
Ocean planning, which is apparently one step short of ocean zoning NOAA style, is lots of fun for planners because it is uncharted territory, so to speak. As the oceans get more and more crowded with wind farms, research vessels, marine traffic, fishing and recreation, it gets harder and harder to keep conflicting uses from colliding with each other.
This was the thrust of the presentations by John Weber of the Northeastern Regional Ocean Council, Tony MacDonald of the New Jersey-based Urban Coast Institute and Jack Wiggin of the UMass Urban Harbors Institute. Very impressive.
As they spoke to this group of about 80 people from across the country, a few things dawned on me.
First off, there were very few people in the Waypoint Conference Center that I recognized. This is something new and a good thing. These people would never have brought their annual meeting to New Bedford before investor/developers gave them a nice place to stay right in the middle of the waterfront action.
At lunch I asked David Whiting, past president of the association, where he was from and whether he had ever been to New Bedford. The answers were Yarmouth, at the southern tip of Nova Scotia, and no.
I asked him whether New Bedford looked as he expected it would look.
Again, no. “I thought it would look more like Portland, Maine. You’ve still got a way to go.” Fair comment.
But he praised New Bedford’s “foresight and determination” in building waterfront facilities, which he said is absolutely necessary if this port is going to compete for opportunities that are emerging fast, such as short sea shipping (intercoastal trips).
The city is getting it right, he said. “You’ve got to have the facilities in place when the time comes. Otherwise it will just pass you by.”
Now, if this conference hadn’t happened here, all these people would not have seen the Port of New Bedford. They would not have learned about the South Marine Commerce Terminal, which will start off by being the epicenter of East Coast wind turbine shore support and assembly.
Edward Anthes-Washburn, interim director of the Harbor Development Commission, gave a polished presentation about the South Terminal that was so well done you would never guess he was in his mid-20s and not a 20-year veteran.
Finally, Mayor Jon Mitchell gave a luncheon welcome to the group that demonstrated he’s got a good grasp after just five months in office of all the things that have been transforming the waterfront.
I made a point of saying to Whiting that it can’t be forgotten that all of these things are due in large part to the initiatives of two mayors, Scott Lang and Fred Kalisz before him.
New Bedford has been fortunate that way. And now it’s stepping up to a bigger stage. It’s about time.
Steve Urbon’s column appears Wednesdays and Fridays in The Standard-Times and at SouthCoastToday.com. He can be reached at surbon@s-t.com or 508-979-4448.
June 08, 2012 12:05 AM
Source URL: http://www.southcoasttoday.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120608/NEWS/206080333/-1/rss01

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