Regardless of the cash thrown at the problem, which will likely result in bloated bureaucracies doing study after study getting nothing done, the bigger question should be where is the next generation of mariners coming from. Why are situations like at Washington State Ferries becoming more commonplace across the industry? According to the Seattle Times, as of 2016 (when the article was written), the average age of a mariner in Washington State is 54! Sure, it may be younger elsewhere but not by much. I firmly believe that the capital problem that @john is rightly ringing the bell about will be moot in about 15 years when the next generation that should have been trained to take the place of boomers and late gen X-ers isn’t there. It will take generations to replace the institutional knowledge being lost at the hands of masters, mates, bosuns, engineers and on and on who aren’t imparting it on their replacements. That loss, I also believe, will hasten the end of the Jones Act as we know it today. Companies are not shy about trying to import the cheapest labor who are willing to live in conditions and with the pay considered substandard, or worse, by US standards. Agriculture and tech in California are great examples of this, and this will happen with the US maritime industry.
I am personally not a big fan of the boomer generation. Call me a typical Millennial, but the boomers appear to have the outward appearance of “I got mine, fuck you” of any generation. I think that attitude has permeated all facets of modern American and Western life. It didn’t have to be this way, but we are here and it almost feels like I literally have to wait for people to die to have advanced on the tugs beyond AB Tankerman. Same with the boomers and housing. Speaking rationally as a 28 year old male in California, where the hell is my incentive to care or want to care for an industry or society that doesn’t care about me? Not even as an individual but as the next generation that should continue the maritime industry or continue the country? John said above that he became so disheartened with US flagged ships that he sailed foreign. Hell, I have looked into that as well.
Concluding this, what needs to happen today is a concerted effort by masters, mates, engineers, and on to train their American next generation replacements or be prepared to stick a fork in the US maritime industry. We have no alternatives at this point.