once again, my friends at Maritime Executive nail it right on the head
National Maritime Day: The Tipping Point
By MarEx 2016-05-22
The Merchant Marines predate both the U.S. Coast Guard (1790) and the U.S. Navy (1797), but as the industry celebrates National Maritime Day in 2016, all is not well.
Participating in the Navy League’s annual Sea-Air-Space exposition this month, Paul “Chip” Jaenichen, Maritime Administrator for the U.S. Maritime Administration, described the U.S. sealift fleet as being “at a tipping point” and the U.S. maritime presence as “at the lowest level in our history.”
Jaenichen said there are only 79 U.S.-flagged ships remaining in international trade, a 25 percent drop over the last three years. “We are moving less than two percent of our nearly 1.4 billion tons of U.S. imports and exports annually on U.S.-flagged ships. And most of our commodities coming to the United States are carried on foreign vessels with allegiance to other foreign countries.
“The Maritime Administration currently estimates that we have barely enough – and I emphasize, barely enough – qualified mariners to crew existing fleets of government sealift and also U.S.-flagged commercial sealift vessels, to provide both the surge and the sustainment of our armed forces if we go longer than four to six months.”
Jaenichen said that nearly 80 years of inattention and neglect dating back to 1936 has led the Maritime Administration to begin development of a new National Maritime Strategy. The strategy is currently in draft form.
From the U.S. Coast Guard
U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Paul Thomas, assistant commandant for prevention policy, paid tribute to the Merchant Marine, saying: “The Coast Guard is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s ports and waterways – but we do not do that alone; we depend on mariners’ cooperation and support. Their hard work is vital to our economy and the strength of our nation.”
He also mentioned the El Faro tragedy: “Our dedication to ensuring mariner safety is unwavering – the Coast Guard is diligently investigating the El Faro incident in hopes that the findings will bring tangible outcomes that will allow us to minimize these incidents in the future. Today, tomorrow, and every day, I thank mariners for the work they do, I greatly appreciate their professionalism and dedication to our nation,” he said.
“The mariners’ role in driving the U.S. – and global – economies has far-reaching impacts. Each and every day, merchant mariners make unrivaled contributions to our nation and our nation’s economy. According to the American Association of Port Authorities, 23.1 million jobs are supported by U.S. coastal seaports. In addition, marine cargo transportation generated $4.6 trillion work of economic activity and contributed 26 percent to the U.S. gross domestic product in 2015. Those numbers speak for themselves,” said Thomas.
whoever the next President is, I pray they pay more attention to our US flagged fleet and do anything to cajole the Congress to pass a new Merchant Marine Act to rebuild the pitiful handful of ships we currently have. It will not require taxpayer money in the form of more subsidies to do this but to enact legislation to incentivize US companies to use US ships. The gutting of the PL480 and the US Ex/Im Bank cargo setasides need to be reinstated as well as to grant accelerated depreciation for companies who bring in foreign built ships to the US flag. Also, we need to get back to 100% use of US ships for any US DoD cargoes moved anywhere on the planet.