NEW BEDFORD — It's tough to argue that the most-well known attribute of New Bedford is its internationally known commercial fishing port. After all, it is called the Whaling City.

Since its establishment on the shores of Acushnet in the 18th Century, New Bedford has grown into the highest grossing commercial fishing port in the United States, and has been an unmatched center of the industry on the East Coast for years.

Despite hundreds of years of success, port leaders and city officials are planning to grow and diversify it even more. On Wednesday, Port Director Ed Anthes-Washburn, Mayor Jon Mitchell, and Dr. Brian Rothschild announced that the Harbor Development Commission (HDC) has changed its name to the New Bedford Port Authority (NBPA) as part of a five-year strategic plan to further expand and diversify the port, as well as enhance its operations.

“We were formerly the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission which was developed in 1957. In 1957 the focus was on a smaller subset of things. Today we have our hands in a lot of different areas and were a very diverse and vibrant port,” Washburn explained. “We want regionally, nationally, and internationally to be recognized and the New Bedford Port Authority moniker does that a little better than the New Bedford Harbor Development Commission.”

In addition to the name change, the strategic plan also details six strategies to be executed by 2023. The strategies focus on providing superior direct-services to harbor users, ensuring harbor users have access to useful and well-managed infrastructure, promoting industry growth and diversification through business development and recruitment, advocating for state and federal policies which further the interests of port users, and promoting and marketing the port. The NBPA will also employ a business model and management practices to sustain its mission.

"We're doing this rebranding because 'Harbor Development Commission' just sounds too small time," Mayor Jon Mitchell said in his weekly appearance on WBSM following the announcement. "This is a big time port. To highlight the fact that it is big, not just for us but for the rest of the world, we want to call it something that is more becoming of the port."

Washburn says the name change “reflects the scope that we focus on now with recreational boating, with cargo development, with ferry passengers, and the opportunities with offshore wind.” He also says that more importantly, the name change reflects who they are as a fishing port and where they want to go with innovation and ocean cluster opportunities, among other ventures.

"For the first time in a long, long time, this agency has a strategic plan," Mayor Mitchell said. “The Port of New Bedford represents fully 2% of the entire Massachusetts economy, so we all have a stake in maximizing its contribution to the City and region.”