BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — The Louisiana River Pilots Association launches Open Waters — a new initiative bringing in jobs, education, and opportunity in the maritime industry.

“Louisiana ranks number one in the country for economic impact from the maritime industry,” said Governor John Bel Edwards. “It’s not an exaggeration to say America feeds most of the world. Sixty percent of that comes right by this river.”

The goal is to recruit a diverse workforce and give all people of different backgrounds an opportunity.

Louisiana Representative Ted James said there are not enough people of color in an industry that promises a comfortable income.

“We are going to put forward an opportunity to provide access and exposure. And that’s something all people of color need. We don’t need handouts. We need access, we need information, we need exposure because young people emulate what they see,” he said.

Job opportunities will expand across Louisiana. The industry is responsible for one in five jobs in the state. These jobs include vessel operators, marine terminal shipyards and river pilots.

According to the Louisiana River Pilots Association, Open Waters will meet citizens, stakeholders and prospective career aspirants face to face, bringing a maritime industry “roadshow” tour to classrooms and community centers across Louisiana.

“Last legislative session the river pilots pledged to make African Americans and other minorities aware of the increasing number of career opportunities in Louisiana’s maritime industry,” River Pilot Captain Lee Jackson, CEO of Jackson Offshore Operators said. “To keep pace with this industry, it is important to develop additional talent, and the pilots will lead the way.”

More information on the initiative is available here.