Our Maritime Matters

Today, our maritime industry has never been stronger – or more important to our region. Around here, maritime matters.


Washington State’s Maritime industry is rooted in the State’s rich history of timber production, its location as a trade hub, and its proximity to some of the world’s most productive fisheries. And we’ve always been the primary gateway to Alaska and Asia.


Our maritime industry is annually worth $45.0 billion to the state economy, according to a 2022 study by the Washington Maritime Federation. In 2022, the industry employed 174,300 workers, with an average salary of $112,000 with benefits!


Washington is also the most trade dependent state in the United States.  Today, four in ten jobs in Washington are tied to international trade, according to the Port of Seattle.


And the maritime industry is thriving!


The growth of the industry is not just in shipping. You can see the strength of the industry at our shipyards, cruise ship terminals, Fishermen’s Terminal, Shilshole Bay Marina, ferry terminals and maritime businesses throughout Washington.

Maritime Milestones


SS Beaver, first steamship in the Pacific Northwest is commissioned by Hudson’s Bay  Company



Northern Pacific Railroad chooses Tacoma as western terminus of transcontinental line.



Thea Foss founds Foss Launch Co., later to become Foss Maritime, the largest tug company
on the West Coast. Tugboat Annie character based on Ms. Foss.



Puget Sound Naval Shipyard established.



Steamship Portland arrives with a "ton of gold,"starting the first Seattle boom as miners by the thousands began their northward journeys.



Washington State Legislature enacts a law allowing the establishment of a port district and King County voters to approve creation of the Port of Seattle on September 5th.



The Port of Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal is dedicated the North Pacific Fishing Fleet makes it their home port.



Todd Shipyards purchased Seattle Construction and Drydock, expanding to Harbor Island in 1917.



NYK Steamship Line offers regular sailings between Japan and Seattle.


World War I

Plants, such as Todd Shipyards and Skinner & Eddy Corporation, are busy with wartime  contracts for the Emergency Fleet Corporation. 30,000 men find work at eight shipyards over the next few years.



The Port of Seattle innovates with cold storage facilities never before seen. The Spokane St. Terminal is used for freezing, handling and storing fresh-caught fish from Alaska as well as keeping Washington apples, pears, berries, eggs, butter, and cheese refrigerated until they are exported or sent to local markets.



Lumber is the top export; the annual cut is over five billion feet. Half of Washington State residents are employed in lumber or allied trades.



Trade to the Orient now accounts for 50 percent of the Port’s foreign commerce.



Lake Washington Ship Canal completed.


World War II

Todd Shipyards gears up for World War II, ultimately employing nearly 57,000 nation-wide, building 1,000 ships and repairing or converting another 23,000.



Port of Seattle is granted authorization for Foreign Trade Zone No. 5 (FTZ), one of the oldest in the nation.



With the buyout of Puget Sound Navigation., Washington State Ferries come into existence.   Today, it’s the largest passenger and automobile ferry fleet in the United States. Its 23 ferry vessels carry more than 23 million ferry passengers and 10 million vehicles annually.



The Port of Seattle’s Shilshole Bay Marina is formally dedicated, marking the opening of
the area’s finest recreational moorage facility with room for 1500 vessels.



First Sea-Land container ship arrives, marking the beginning of the container shipping at the
Port of Seattle.



Grain exports get a new home with the opening of the $15 million Pier 86 Grain Facility.



Magnuson-Stevens Act establishes 200-mile fishery conservation zone off the U.S. Coast,
consolidating control over territorial waters a
nd managing fisheries.



An all-time high of one million containers moves through the Port of Seattle.



The cruise terminal at Bell Street Pier welcomes its first cruise ship.



A New Cruise Terminal: Smith Cove Cruise Terminal at Terminal 91 opens.



Vigor Industrial purchased Todd Shipyards.



Washington State Ferries announce conversion to natural gas.



The Ports of Seattle and Tacoma announce Northwest Seaport Alliance.



Centennial of the Ballard Locks.



Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County, Community Attributes (2013), and
Port of Seattle. For more information:

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©Seattle Maritime 101. Design by Saunderson Marketing Group. Photos courtesy of Don Wilson, Port of Seattle, Vigor, Puget Sound Pilots, Seattle Maritime Academy, Seattle Propeller Club and Washington State Ferries.