W. Bradford Gary
We should commend the Port of Palm Beach Commission for the successful establishment and expansion of the super yacht facility Berth One.
Everything I have seen in the maritime world suggests that super yachts will dominate the “new build” category of ship construction for many years to come. The port is well equipped to handle the new marine business, while other docking facilities lower in the Lake Worth Lagoon may have difficulty with large vessel length, depth and channel restrictions.
The port also has exciting opportunities for clean environment business activity. A large cruise ship operation has been retrofitted with a business model designed by Jimmy Buffett. The expanded cruise facility has the potential to provide additional revenues, but also attract cruise tourists to the other attractions of the county. Unfortunately, for many years, the port was utilized as a remote staging point and export shipping platform for heavy industrial composites. Today, our valuable county waterfront is better suited for tourism and high-technology activity — platforms for new marine technology.
Storage of large commodity and construction items should be located in less-expensive areas outside the near shore area of Lake Worth. Lockheed Martin, a leading U.S. maritime warfare defense contractor is a major DoD contractor based on the north side of the port. Lockheed technology is leading the way for new maritime weapons systems. Lockheed tests underwater drones off the Lake Worth Inlet, [and] our Gulf Stream location serves as a near shore weapons range. Almost every week test drones are towed out to the Lake Worth Inlet for sea trials.
Lockheedʼs history in Palm Beach is instructive; original work on civilian and government submersibles occurred in the 1950s at Perry Submersibles in Riviera Beach. The U.S. government — through the work of former U.S. Rep. Paul Rogers of Palm Beach — established a large shoreside base in West Palm for the Navyʼs Underwater Weapons Range in the Atlantic tongue in the lower Bahamas chain. U.S. Navy contractor flights to and from the range now depart daily from Palm Beach International Airport. The Bahamas Underwater Range and associated West Palm activity are major employers and bring government science assets to the area.
Because the Lake Worth Inlet has secure all-weather access for ocean-going vessels, the port is uniquely qualified for expansion of the high technology maritime sector. No U.S. port facility is similarly situated. We should take further advantage of our superior oceanic location to build a world-class maritime location to include research institutions, specialized submersible ship sites and university programs in the ocean sciences.
Many U.S. and foreign jurisdictions establish local tax incentives for new technology employment. Perhaps Palm Beach County should review the desirability of establishing a new county “wage credit“ that would provide a partial credit for specifically qualified new marine research facilities.
Some years ago Palm Beach established numerous local incentives for a biotechnology cluster. I believe that marine technology has better prospects for our county employment growth compared to the pharmaceutical/biotechnology sector.
Our future prospects are clearly better served today if we engage with the world of high maritime technology. Letʼs start to work.
W. Bradford Gary of Palm Beach is a director at the Southern Ocean Research Company.