AltaSea is a cutting edge, 35-acre blue tech and ocean research campus at the Port of Los Angeles, serving as the ‘world’s greatest water cooler’ of innovation for the blue economy. VX News spoke to AltaSea CEO Tim McOsker and Port of LA’s Mike Galvin about the innovative industries and partnerships transforming San Pedro Bay into a vibrant waterfront innovation ecosystem that drives regional economic development, creates good jobs, and preserves ocean sustainability.
Tim, how is AltaSea working to be the economic engine for transforming San Pedro Bay into a vibrant waterfront innovation ecosystem?
Tim McOsker: AltaSea at the Port of Los Angeles is a nonprofit entity, and our goal with these 35 acres of property is to create an incubator and business space where we can exponentially expand the growth of the blue economy here in the Southern California region. The “blue economy” is defined by the World Bank as the sustainable use of the oceans resources to create good jobs, improve livelihoods, and create economic activity, all while preserving the sustainability of the ocean.
“LA County has 75 miles of coastline, but Southern California has hundreds of miles of coastline, 22 million people, and a great opportunity to advance, educate, and staff an emerging blue economy that creates a sustainable use of the ocean’s resources.”—Tim McOsker
Michael, with your role at the Port of LA and its ambitions for San Pedro Bay, how do those ambitions align with Alta Sea?
Mike Galvin: Our ambitions for redevelopment of the waterfront includes a diverse offering of economic activity, which includes entertainment, retail, and dining, but also includes the emergence of the blue economy. It’s extremely important that we add high paying jobs and educational opportunities to the waterfront offerings that we have to round out the ecosystem that we aspire to create in the Harbor communities of San Pedro and Wilmington..
AltaSea is critical in that because they are the organization that we have partnered with to move forward with creating these new industries coming out of the blue economy. We look forward to that activation and the activity that comes from that site to really serve as an economic engine that will drive the rest of the waterfront development.
Tim, what is the progress that’s been made in creating the world’s greatest water cooler for ocean innovation? What are the benchmarks?
Tim McOsker: The benchmarks for us are to bring in university research and teaching, and put that adjacent to business activity. The exciting news for us is that we have recently signed a lease with the University of Southern California, for USC Labs, to come and do aquaculture research and development. Immediately adjacent to the USC lease space are a couple of startup companies, one of which is directly related to aquaculture. We find that the water cooler effect is to have university research and academic activities immediately adjacent to business activities and, have each catalyze the other.
Just a short distance from that activity is a group called Crypto Kids, an occasional camp for children to learn about ocean robotics, ocean discovery, and sustainability. We’re seeing that water cooler effect developing right now with research, business, and education.
Fifty years ago, canning and fishing were the driving job engines of the POLA. Looking forward another 10 years, what will be driving the economy of the port, and how is the Port accommodating opportunities for investment by tweaking regulations and upgrading facilities?
Mike Galvin: The port will continue to accommodate the cargo business that we have grown sustainably over the last 50 years, moving goods from wherever they are around the world, to the United States, and through the southern California gateway. That will remain core to our overall mission, but we want to see a diversification of uses and the development of our commercial waterfront.
The 400 acres of waterfront that we have dedicated to non cargo commercial uses and over the course of last 20 years and large scale infrastructure investments through our public access investment plan over the last 5 years demonstrates that the port is heavily committed to diversifying uses adjacent to our local communities. New partnerships with a variety of development partners including nonprofits like AltaSea, and for-profit companies engaged in the West Harbor development provide the framework for the beginning of a fundamental shift towards large scale retail, dining, entertainment and blue economy development at the LA Waterfront. . There will also be others coming down the line, including our Cabrillo Way Marina development, Warehouse 1, our Outer Harbor Cruise development, and a large-scale boatyard development.
What we want to see in the next 10 years is the build out of these new commercial opportunities at West Harbor; [the] blossoming of what happens at AltaSea; the technical exchanges that will happen between researchers, commercial entities, and educators; and the hope that that will create a new, large-scale economy on the waterfront that is diverse in itself. Then, continual advancement of our visitor serving opportunities through the other developments that I mentioned to create an ecosystem that will be very diverse, very active, and it will really create a much better synergy with the local community than we have today. It will continue to creep into local community and create economic activity well beyond the port’s limits of property ownership.
This interview takes place as the LA beaches were closed following a 17-million-gallon sewage spill from Hyperion into the Bay. Elaborate, given the aforementioned, on the resiliency challenges facing California’s coasts, the future of the ocean economy, and the practicality of future sustainable development.
Mike Galvin: There’s a unique nature to our partnership with AltaSea, in that we are developing this nonprofit in an urban ocean setting; in a setting within the largest port complex in the country. The port takes that extremely seriously regarding how we deal with the air and the water, as we have done since the mid-2000s with our Clean Air action plan. It’s extremely important that we continue to monitor the watershed and make sure that we are not creating additional burdens on the waterways that we have. We’ve been extremely successful in that over the course of the last 10 years.
We do a biodiversity update every couple of years and report to our board on that. It shows that year over year the amount of diversity within the waters in the harbor has exponentially changed in the last 10 years. We continue to focus on that in everything we do to make sure that, whether it’s in the air or in the water, that we are producing the least amount of burden on the environment as possible while continuing to work with our partners to grow economic activitivity.
Tim McOsker: If you look at the ocean economy today, it’s dominated by two industries: transportation (goods movement) and recreation. Of those, goods movement has a far higher value, although recreation provides a high number of jobs. What is important is to create a diversity of jobs in that blue economy that are also environmentally sustainable.
This is why we’re focusing on aquaculture, which is essentially ocean farming, underwater robotics, and sustainable energies in the ocean. The challenges we face are numerous, one of which is climate change, the change in temperature in the waters, and sea level rise. We feel like these industries that we want to grow will help us intervene and slow, stop, or maybe even reverse those negative effects.
Although, environmental challenges are not the only challenges. We also have the challenge of regulatory frameworks. We need the federal and the state and local government to catch up with the industry and make sure that there are opportunities to do ocean farming in federal, state, and local waters. We need to make sure that there are regulatory rules and investment dollars available for sustainable energies like kinetic wave energy or wind energy off the coastline. Finally, once we have begun to tackle these regulatory schemes, we also need to make sure that we are investing in the education of the workers to be able to engage in those jobs and advance those industries of the emerging blue economy.
VerdeXchange was honored to join AltaSea at the docking of the world’s first energy-autonomous electric catamaran, the Energy Observer, in April. In what ways are technologies that were incorporated into that catamaran, like renewable hydrogen, now transforming the blue economy and on oing operations at the ports?
Tim McOsker: The Energy Observer visit was such a brilliant demonstration of the opportunities in the blue economy for sustainable energies. We saw one vessel that took advantage of wind power, sun power, and had its own ability to create hydrogen power. It became a floating cogeneration plant and demonstrated all of the energy opportunities that we can advance both in the ocean and in the logistics chain that goes from the ocean’s edge into the stream of commerce. Those technologies can be made available to shipping lines, harbor craft, short-haul trucks, and long-haul trucks, and we are showing through something like the Energy Observer, that if we are creative and dedicated to converting a lot of our engines and creating supply chains that we can move goods with renewable energies.
Mike Galvin: The port is also extremely laser focused on moving forward with cleaner energies to power the facilities that handle the cargo, and there’s many nodes of that from the ships to the cargo-handling equipment on the terminal to the trucks and trains that take the goods off of the terminal. The port has really been at the forefront of challenging industry to come up with solutions to reduce their footprint from an emissions perspective and to find more efficient ways to utilize their facilities, through the use of cleaner energies.
Some of that is electric. We’re looking at the beginning of development with one of our tug partners on the first electric tug that would be calling in the San Pedro Bay. We continue to work with commercial providers in the trucking industry to find ways to implement other alternative energies, whether it be through electricity or through the use of hydrogen for on-road trucks.
It’s imperative for us to find better, cleaner ways to operate our port in the future to maintain the strong partnership we have with our local communities and by continuing to be a steward and a leader worldwide in how you can sustainably run large-scale ports.
With the Port of LA a leader in North America and AltaSea a leading innovator in the ocean economy, what collaborations are taking place on the coast—in California, Oregon, Washington, and Vancouver—that are relevant to reaching the Blue Economy’s potential?
Tim McOsker: The whole model of AltaSea is to be a collaborator and work across geography, industries, and environmental groups. AltaSea has entered into strategic and cooperation agreements with various ports up and down the West Coast of the United States. In particular, we think that there is a great opportunity in working with the Port of San Diego and Scripps in San Diego.
There’s an opportunity for Southern California as a region to be a leader in this emerging blue economy and research and development in the ocean. LA County has 75 miles of coastline, but Southern California has hundreds of miles of coastline, 22 million people, and a great opportunity to advance, educate, and staff an emerging blue economy that creates a sustainable use of the ocean’s resources.