Maritime High School Collaborator Spotlight: Brian Kirk of WA State Department of Ecology

Kelsey BrennerAll, Maritime High School

My name is Brian Kirk. I’m fortunate to be the Spill Prevention Section Manager with the Washington State Department of Ecology’s Spill Prevention, Preparedness, and Response program. Washington has some of the strongest laws in the country to prevent harm from oil spills, and our Spills Program is unique. We’re a team of about 80 people with skill sets ranging from ship captains and tug boat mates, to professional engineers, planners, frontline responders, investigators, and research scientists. We’re driven by our dedication to protect the waters of the state from harm.

My maritime experience started in high school. We didn’t have a maritime program, but I was always drawn to the water. I read what I could find and helped people with boat maintenance in order to get out on the Chesapeake Bay and the rivers of eastern Virginia. My most notable experience was making a delivery trip on a trawler over one Christmas break. We got into bad weather at night on the Bay—the fuel filter for the engine clogged, and we lost power. Then, a minor leak from the propeller stuffing box turned into a major leak. Luckily, we were able to signal a passing tug and get some quick assistance from the Coast Guard.

A picture I saw in high school set me on course for college; it was a group of students from a maritime academy, standing in front of the pyramids. I was determined to get there myself. I applied to Maine Maritime Academy, and at the end of my second year, I flew to Egypt to meet up with a ship. After graduation, I started a career as a seagoing officer in the US Navy. For 20 years, I traveled around the world—literally—on destroyers, cruisers, command ships, and aircraft carriers. Since leaving the Navy, I’ve worked on maritime programs at the University of Washington, and here at Ecology.

My goal for being involved with Maritime High School is to help students explore the infinite variety of jobs and careers working on and around the water. Whether you want to be a commercial welder, an environmental scientist, work on the biggest ferry system in the country, or sail around the world, there are endless challenges and opportunities. Every maritime job needs smart, dedicated young people who can think critically, pay attention to detail, and bring their passion to work. Explore all the opportunities in front of you—you’ll find something that grabs your interest!


This is our moment to create positive regional change through powerful maritime experiences. Find out how your investment will make a difference for the students of Maritime High School. Click here to learn more and make a gift.

To learn more and enroll, visit maritime.highlineschools.org