Anyone looking for a Rhode Island career is probably struggling as the state faces one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates. However, Rhode Island is hoping its maritime industry will soon make a comeback and create several new jobs.
During December 2008, Rhode Island had a total non-farm employment of 468,800 workers, according to the United States Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics. This is down from 471,800 workers during November 2008 and a 4.5 percent decrease from last year.
The state had an unemployment rate of 10 percent during December, up from 9.3 percent during November and higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.2 percent.
According to an article by The New York Times, a recent report by the Rhode Island Marine Trade Association found that there are 450 job vacancies in Rhode Island’s maritime industry and that the state will need to fill 2,400 more jobs during the next five to 10 years. However, embarking on a maritime career takes special skills and the appropriate knowledge.
“You need a significant amount of technical knowledge, because some of the boats built in Rhode Island are among the most sophisticated in world,” Dennis Nixon, a University of Rhode Island dean, who also helped found the International Marina Institute, said in the article.
In Newport, officials are hoping a reprieve of the state’s maritime industry will help boost employment. Tall Ships Rhode Island, a non-profit group, bought a steel hull last year for $339,000 from a group in Canada. The city is now planning to turn that hull into the Oliver Hazard Perry, after the Rhode Island man who played an important role in the War of 1812.
Newport is hoping the plan will help create jobs, attract tourists and revive the maritime industry. The ship, which measures 207-feet long and 13 stories tall, is scheduled to set sail in 2011. It will be the country’s largest tall ship except for the Eagle, a Coast Guard ship. The ship will spend at least 40 weeks per year at sea, reaching New England, Canada, the Great lakes and the Caribbean. It will provide services to day passengers and high school and college groups.
It is expected to cost about $5 million to finish remodeling the ship and about a third of the money has been raised through contributions from Bowen’s Wharf, individuals and corporations, such as Bank Newport, which contributed $25,000. Tall Ships Rhode Island also could receive $2 million in a bank loan, $500,000 in federal grants and donated equipment in exchange for sponsorship.