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Knauss Fellowship: NC Fellow on Deck for Marine Transportation System

Knauss Fellowship: NC Fellow on Deck for Marine Transportation System

By Diana Hackenburg, North Carolina Sea Grant

How does a banana travel from the tropics to your table? The simple answer is by boat. But as Supriti Jaya Ghosh explains, the real answer contains a lot more complexity — and probably a few million more bananas.

As a 2016 Sea Grant Knauss Fellow from North Carolina, Ghosh serves as policy advisor to the executive director of the U.S. Committee on the Marine Transportation System, or CMTS. The committee is a partnership of all the agencies that help move people and goods, like bananas, to, from and on the water.

Having studied marine transportation in the Arctic, Ghosh entered her fellowship familiar with the role marine transportation plays in global commerce. “I am particularly excited to be spending my Knauss fellowship year seeing how the concepts I explored in my master’s project regarding maritime transportation issues translate to real-world maritime management,” Ghosh explains.

Despite her background, Ghosh is still surprised by the complexity of the maritime industry. “I perceived our containerships and tugboats in an autonomous, ‘Lightning McQueen’ or ‘Thomas the Tank Engine’ manner,” she admits in a recent blog for North Carolina Sea Grant. She was eager to broaden her perspective by meeting the individuals who literally drive the system. 

In this room simulating the bridge of a vessel, cadets at the California Maritime Academy participate in a training drill where a tanker has lost power. As they navigate the vessel, the projections in the room rotate accordingly around them. Image: Supriti Jaya Ghosh.

Just a month into her fellowship, she met some of those people at a conference focused on the role of women in the maritime industry, held at the California Maritime Academy. While touring the campus — including the 400-foot Training Ship Golden Bear — she met students who one day will pilot and engineer the boats that bring bananas, and many other goods, safely to port. In the coming months, she will be busy as the CMTS liaison to the National Ocean Council. “I am responsible for ensuring federal maritime interests are adequately reflected in our National Ocean Policy and regional ocean plans,” Ghosh reports. “I also will be supporting interagency activities that move the maritime sector towards cleaner energy sources and reducing air emissions from vessels and ports.” 

Ghosh has a master’s degree in environmental management from Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and a certificate in international development policy from Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and geology from Middlebury College in Vermont. Originally, she is from Seattle.

Back to those traveling bananas: Ghosh notes that a single 20-foot container can hold 48,000 bananas. That’s 864 million bananas per large containership if they are the sole cargo, or at least two bananas for every person in the United States. 

While just 26 people are needed to run this type of boat, Ghosh now better understands and will incorporate into her policy work the importance of these individuals in maintaining a successful maritime transportation system.

This placement brings the number of Knauss fellows from North Carolina to 71, among the highest in the Sea Grant network. Former fellows hold leadership positions within the government, private businesses and nonprofits coast to coast. Explore North Carolina’s branch of the alumni network and learn more about their unique Knauss experiences. 

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