NEW BEDFORD — The Port of New Bedford announced a new international partnership with ImpactLABS and in result will join the Ocean Cluster Network. The partnership will connect the Whaling City to a global network of maritime science technologies.

ImpactLABS Managing Director Chris Rezendes, Port Director Edward Anthes-Washburn, and Mayor Jon Mitchell signed a memorandum of understanding with the Founder of the Iceland Ocean Cluster and the Ocean Cluster Network Thor Sigfusson to create a partnership with the marine incubator.

The goal of the partnership is to increase the value of New Bedford Harbor by connecting people, businesses, and technology. Joining the Ocean Cluster Network, New Bedford will be part of a global network committed to sharing information on developing business opportunities within fishing ports.

Mayor Jon Mitchell welcomed representatives from ImpactLABS and the Ocean Cluster Network and says that despite the New Bedford's enormous capital, it's necessary to diversify the business of the port to expand the economic engine of the harbor.

“The port is diversifying. There's more investment coming in and already a tremendous amount of capital already concentrated in the port,” Mayor Mitchell said. “We know that in order to thrive in the long-run we have to evolve.”

New Bedford's Ocean Cluster will use the strength of its commercial fishing and processing industry and its development of the offshore renewable energy program to create business opportunities with traditional marine businesses and create more sellable products.

“Cultivating a network of commercial fishing interests and new technology companies can spur innovation in New Bedford, and support the port and fishing industry,” Mitchell said. “As the center of commercial fishing on the east coast, New Bedford is seizing an opportunity to help create new small businesses and jobs for our residents,” he added.

Thor Sigfusson created the Iceland Ocean Cluster and Ocean Cluster Network to build and support a network of entrepreneurs and businesses in marine science. The goal is to ensure the creation of new business and research that will add value to the entire industry. Sigfusson has proved that the concept can work, as over ten startup companies have been created in the Iceland Ocean Cluster in Reykjavik, Iceland.

“We're moving this industry into a completely different era,” Sigfusson said. “We are creating new products, skin care products, proteins, medical devices and what-have-you, all from the same resources our fisherman have been capturing for years,” he said.

ImpactLABS works with local businesses to develop specific technologies to collect data and information that supports their growth and efficiency. Their work with New Bedford's commercial fisherman aims to improve on-board monitoring of the ocean floor and to maximize efficiency in other areas. The agreement officially formalizes the continued relationship between the Port of New Bedford and ImpactLABS.

The partnership is expected to build on New Bedford Harbor's already large revenue, and add-on to the 6,200 jobs it currently supports. Port Director Edward Anthes-Washburn spelled out the importance of the Port of New Bedford not only to the area, but Massachusetts as a whole.

“Last year we did an economic study of the value of the Port of New Bedford and $9.8-billion of economic value is in both New Bedford and Fairhaven. That's 2% of the GDP of Massachusetts,” said Anthes-Washburn.

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