Impassioned Call for saving the Merchant Marine

Look, if you want to have a beer and a long talk about US immigration policy, its history, and the geopolitical implications and motivations thereof, I’m all for that. Shoot me a PM and we’ll set something up. But unsourced claims and anonymous back and forth on the internet aren’t getting us anywhere.

On a positive note, really appreciate you going back and taking down that post where you quoted the DSA as if their position were mine. I was a bit lost on how to respond to that aside from “please see original post” :joy:

1 Like

That’s a good summary of how I’m feeling about the whole idea. It all seems like a bunch of faffing about. We’ve had congressional investigative committees, we’ve had industry investigations, they all came back with the same, fairly well specified set of problems. We need more ships, we need expanded cargo preference and cabotage, and we need the subsidies or protections to make it all competitive with flag states that don’t require US sailors, US ships, and US regulatory compliance.

John says he’s not talking about passing legislation, but our entire industry in the US exists because of legislation. Any new support for our industry is coming through new legislation. Get me a law saying that over a 10 year phase-in period, all US oil exports must be carried on US flag, US built, US crewed vessels, and then we can all have a talk about what a great time it is to be an American mariner. Double MSP funding or X or Y or Z and we can all do the same thing.

Great points. I like “investigative study” but I’m not sure interview captures the intent. The AMP website has a podcast and lots of interviews like this on with Rep John Rutherford.

The headline of that interview is " “We must not overlook the importance of protecting the supply chains by relinquishing control to foreign entities to build our vessels and transport our goods” Rep John Rutherford

Ok. Well, I appreciate Rutherford’s support but he’s preaching to the choir.

Going back to my engine analogy this is equivalent of hiring McKinsey consultants to fly out to your ship to figure out why your engine isn’t working and the consultants writing a report that says “This engine is critical to the operation of this ship. Without this engine our ship will not be able to deliver goods for our customers”.

The next podcast I love “Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) as he engages World War II Merchant Marine Veteran Dave Yoho” Garamendi is our top advocate in Congress and Yoho is a personal friend of mine and I am a HUGE supporter of MErchant MArine vets that are at the core of this interview… but again it states the obvious: the merchant marine is important and keeps getting screwed over.

The next podcast ““The Truth Regarding the Jones Act’s Impact on Hawaii”” is a little more helpful as it points out some political and media problems in Hawaii but the headlines is “the Jones Act has virtually no effect on the cost of living in Hawaii”… ok but are there problems that, if fixed, can help reduce the cost of living in Hawaii?

The latest is “Cybersecurity and the Future of Great Lakes Maritime with Congressman Mike Gallagher” and here’s the first question: “The big news is the reward of a $5.5 BILLION navy contract for the LCS in your district. Can you talk about this?”.

How about we ask why the F the Navy hates these ships so much they are jettisoning new LCS ships faster than we can build new ones?

THEN Gallagher talks about how “neat” and “fun” it is for wisconson to be developing fully autonomous ships. :flushed:

This guy is on literally promoting the building of useless ships and systems to replace our jobs and AMP’s reply to this is “That’s a great story!”

How about instead of building useless overpriced shit we figure out how we can get Wisconson shipyards building useful inexpensive ships more efficiently at a reduced cost.

And you guys keep asking me why I think AMP’s lobbying is ineffective?? :man_facepalming:t2:

Yeah they all came back with the same bullshit set of problems.

I didn’t say I was against legislation either.

I’m just not talking about the legislation because, in case you haven’t noticed, Congress is completely broken and ineffective.

Yeah, and I want a Lamborghini. :roll_eyes:

I would :heart::heart::heart::heart: some sort of legislation like this. But it’s a PIPEDREAM. The only way we could possibly get it is if we showed all the opposing congressmen’s special interest groups how they are going to get kickbacks by doing this. I’m not suggesting that’s a good idea but, if that’s what you want, it starts by investigating the facts to figure out how we get congress those kickbacks.

A better way to convince congress is to stop telling them there are problems and show them how to fix those problems.

An even better way is to use our newfound power to start fixing these problems ourselves and when congress sees how effective they are then maybe they will provide legislation to accelerate our progress.

And if you want a concrete example here it is:

NYC realized their highway and road system is F’d with traffic. A ton of lobbyist and politicians called for action. A totally unqualified mayor was elected because he focused on this problem. Countless reports were made. Major media outlets talked constantly for years about the problem.

But NOTHING was done.

Then Captain Johanssen at SUNY Maritime drove around the city in a boat and started interviewing people and asking hard questions. He found the most critically broken part of the system. He recruited the best minds at SUNY, USMMA, NYCEDC, UNIONS and other stakeholders.

They the team PUT ON THEIR BOOTS, went to that broken facility and spent weeks on the ground in that location just interviewing people with hard questions. They interrogated buesiness owners, truck drivers, DOT officials. They investigated problems. Then they returned to SUNY Maritime and strategized the problem and next steps needed.

Like me, they offered NO soultions but they did challenge every assumption.

They wrote a report then held a confrenece where everyone was instructed to “Tell it like it is”. People told the truth. At one point the CEO of McAllister berrated the goverment and, instead of taking offense, the Mayor’s office took notes. Huge banks and hedge funds sat in on the conference.

Then they took these facts to albany and issued $60M in grants. They also passed laws to cut red tape.

Then they teamed up big banks with startups and unions with anti-union companies and had stakeholder meetings and invited mortal enemies. And shit got done.

Now, in truth, they tripped and fell on their face at the finish line but you can’t expect 100% success on the first go.

The point is it got very close to working real solutions.

And they didn’t do it by asking mariners to contribute PAC funds to invite congressmen to softball podcast interviews. They did it by getting and publishing the facts.

Now if we use that success and fix the final mistakes we have the outline of a plan that will work.

Is this how you view what you’re doing here?

You’re offering a set of potential solutions based on your assumptions, not just questioning the assumptions of others. That’s fine, but portraying it as something else is disingenuous at best.

You’re one of many stakeholders in the maritime industry. Your ideas on what the industry should do aren’t inherently superior to anyone else’s, and your insights into its problems aren’t inherently more accurate. Calling for industry unity and action while dismissing the ideas or methods of other stakeholders isn’t a very inspiring pitch.

This whole thing reminds me of the Megacorp Union thread. You came in with an idea, received substantial criticism for that idea, and then instead of factoring in that criticism, you started a new thread saying that we all just didn’t get it.

1 Like

So what do you propose?

1 Like

Quite a few people using the word “Disingeneous:” lately on other threads too. That’s the new word now?

What solutions have I offered?

True but I seem to be the only person able to get thousands of people to watch a 44-minute video on the topic, post memes about it, argue about it at length on social media and forums, burn me in effigy, and post their experiences and new ideas. :man_shrugging:

I’m not calling for industry unity. I’m calling for people to come together to figure out how to unify the industry.

And you’re taking my comments way to literally. A giant “Megacorp Union” is about the dumbest idea I’ve ever seen posted on this site. That’s why I posted it.

Are the biggest enemy is not congress or Cato. Our biggest enemy is the fact most mariners don’t really care. Most are happy putting a few bucks towards their PAC and hoping for the best. My job, the whole purpose of gCaptain, isn’t to dictate my view of the world it’s getting people to care. It’s to get people to stand up and take notice of what’s happening in our industry.

I want criticism. That’s the whole point of all this. That’s why I’m still debating you.

But I do wish you’d stop attacking me and start attacking my ideas. Not that I mind the personal attacks but they are against forum policy.

No, I’m not dismissing any ideas. I am debating them but I am taking notes.

Yes, I am dismissing the current methods. When you try an experiment the same way countless times over the period of decades and keep getting the same result (FAILURE) what other logical conclusion is there to make?

It’s a polite way of saying stupid thoughts not logically reasoned.
. :slight_smile:

1 Like

John, show me where I personally attacked you. Then after you’ve shown me, go ahead and ban me for violating forum policy. I don’t have the energy to keep beating my head against a wall that much longer anyway.

In case this is the personal attack, the dictionary definition I’d go with for my usage is from Webster: “giving a false appearance of simple frankness : calculating”

I think that calls for greater co-operation within the industry are a great start. I think we also have to realize that the decline of the maritime industry and its workers is just a small part of the decline of all of US heavy industry and its workers. Fighting for the maritime industry keeps us relatively small and ineffectual. We should be trying to work as a part of a larger coalition for US industrial policy, not standing alone to die on our hill. The steelworkers died on their hill, the autoworkers died on their hill, and we’re slowly dying on our hill too.

S[quote=“SappaCreek, post:72, topic:56733”]
We should be trying to work as a part of a larger coalition for US industrial policy, not standing alone to die on our hill.

This sounds like a proposal for a national industrial policy similar to what Germany and many Scandinavian countries have. Good idea !


I don’t know if we are US industrial workers. I mean certain parts of our workforce (e.g. shipyards, equipment mfgs, etc) are but we are also transporters of goods (like truck drivers), we are engineers, we are installers of high technology systems, we operate military equipment, we drill for oil, we operate ferries, we install wind-farms, we run expensive floating hotels…

A lot of that is industrial but a lot of it is not. We work in an incredibly diverse set of environments. We span everything from old rusty asphalt tankers to the newest hybrid semi-autonomous electric farm to table ferry.

Hell yeah it is!

And for the contingent that thinks of Scandinavia as the other “S” word, know that industrial policy has a long and proud history in the United States. Protections for domestic manufacturing helped us transition from a group of colonies dependent on English imports to the industrial powerhouse of the early 20th century. The National Recovery Act and the Arsenal for Democracy helped pull us out of the Great Depression. The government R&D poured into the space race and computer technology directly led to US leadership in aerospace and tech. On a maritime note, the Jones Act itself is a statement of national industrial/trade policy. The opening words spell that out pretty clearly:

It is necessary for the national defense and for the proper growth of its foreign and domestic commerce that the United States shall have a merchant marine of the best equipped and most suitable types of vessels sufficient to carry the greater portion of its commerce and serve as a naval or military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency, ultimately to be owned and operated privately by citizens of the United States; and it is declared to be the policy of the United States to do whatever may be necessary to develop and encourage the maintenance of such a merchant marine

You forgot to mention that immigrants from many different countries came in to supply the work force.

That is true and not disputed, but is the present policy (or lack thereof) right to reach that goal?
Trying to force your will on foreign countries and withdraw from all treaties and agreement you have signed up to, may not be the best way to do it.

Free Trade and Freedom of Navigation is more than just slogans for political rallies and applies to ALL nations.
It used to be pet subject of the US in International foras.

@john, You have clearly stated you want discussion, action, investigation, not further argument and disagreement. I think the investigation idea, under whatever name works, has merit. I’m not so sure we need less argument though. Regardless, I mean for this comment to be discussion, not argument. For simplicity I’m going to use the term US Flag to refer to all ships eligible for Jones Act trade in its current form.

I don’t follow your logic.

We want a stronger US Merchant Marine. Why? To improve the industry, improve jobs for mariners, improve coastwise commerce, improve the condition of our government fleet, reduce consumer costs, increase wages and status through increased fleet sizes and increased competition? If for those reasons then I’ll agree its worth looking into. If it is to improve war readiness via shipyard strength alone then I think you are fighting the last war, not the next, but that is maybe a separate post.

But the point I want to dig into is ships. If we want more jobs for mariners, we need more US Flag ships. If we want more coastwise trade, we need more US Flag ships. If we want a more robust military cargo fleet, we need more US Flag ships. If we want US officers on cruise ships we need more US Flag ships. If we want reduced consumer costs, we need more ships in the trade, more companies competing, and they need more US Flag ships. You said in Post 29 “they would build US ships if they could get money from the banks to build them”. You state in your video that we the average American mariner are making all the wrong assumptions about why American ships are so costly to produce. So please explain. I’ve been reading about the history of US shipbuilding. I’m reading reports from the government, from private sector, from organizations like Rand, all investigating and researching the cost of producing American ships. I’ve been to multiple US shipyards, multiple foreign shipyards, and I’ve worked on the build of several ships in foreign shipyards. Tell me why all my assumptions are wrong.

Shipbuilding like any other industry depends on economies of scale. We don’t have the scale currently, and my point is we can’t. Without a steady and increasing order book, shipyards can’t recognize efficiencies in two of the main components driving up costs, suppliers and labor. The more impactful one initially is arguably suppliers. So you say we need the US financial machine to back more US companies building US ships. But all the financing in the world doesn’t solve the capacity problem. Even if US shipyards had orders for 50 new ships, they don’t have the capacity to build them. And they don’t have the real estate to expand. The totality of annual output capacity of all US large-ship shipyards is a fraction of a single foreign major shipyard. So if we can’t realize the economies of scale, we will not see reduced ship costs. And at the end of the day we all recognize it’s about money. I simply don’t see a scenario where US build costs decrease to be competitive with foreign build costs. And would it not make for a much more competitive US Merchant Marine if a US company could get two or three or four ships for the price of one? It would absolutely be easier to pass a finance committee. That would vastly increase the number of jobs for US mariners, increase corporate balance sheets, increase profit available for wages and benefits, and more importantly growth. A reduced cost barrier to entry means more entries, more companies, a more robust industry with more jobs and more advocates all the way up the line.

We need more US Flagged ships period, no matter where they come from. I truly believe that more ships/new ships = improved merchant marine.

You said you are not against legislation, but that you are not talking about legislative change because it would be extremely difficult to enact. I am not against legislative change, and I think it is necessary despite the fact that it would be extremely difficult to enact. You state in post 51 “What I can tell you with confidence is what is NOT going to work (basically everything we’ve been trying to do these last 20 years).” What have we actually tried? What changes have we actually made that failed? I can’t think of any meaningful legislative or industry change in the last 20 years. Sure plenty of talk and discussion, but you can just discount that which has not actually been implemented.

Anyway, I agree with your recommendation for an “investigation” a la Truman.

1 Like

THe beautiful thing about free and open debate, eh?

1 Like

Down here John Deere tractors and farm machinery have got quite a grip on the market. How long do you think that would last if the cost of shipping them here was more than shipping a Deutz or Lamborghini?

Worth pondering. The Deere actually works well.

I’m not against argument, obviously I argue just as much as anyone here, I’m against making arguments based off false assumptions.

My wife tells me I argue to win. I tell her that I only argue points that I know can be won. There are tons of posts here I disagree with but don’t reply to because I don’t know the facts. This forum may seem contentious but, in fact, it’s fairly good compared to other avenues for discourse because people can write an in-depth reply but… in phone calls, social meeting, in person meetings I routinely come across people arguing false assumptions.

I’m concerned about all the things you list but my primary concern is for mariners because a strong, well trained, and motivated work force can be agile and effective during uncertain times. And the times ahead are highly uncertain.

You state in your video that we the average American mariner are making all the wrong assumptions about why American ships are so costly to produce .

The primary problem facing us is that we live in a complex world. There are many factors involved very everyone wants a linear solution that’s easy to understand. The reasons why US shipyards are expensive is not linear.

BUT here’s an explanation of how Korea tackled shipyard problems after the collapse of Hanjin. This is written by Dr Sal Mercogliano is a navy forum. he explains the situation better than I can.

If you want to understand the issue facing the United States in terms of shipbuilding than you have to go no further than this image.
After the collapse of Hanjin Marine in 2016, the 7th largest container line in the world, the Republic of Korea needed to shore up its shipbuilding and shipping lines. They decided to consolidate their three largest yards - Daewood, Hyundai, and Samsung into one, and to earmark $4.5 BILLION in funds to build 160 bulk carriers and 40 container ships.
In April 2018, the former Hyundai Merchant Marine, now HMM planned for 20 ships - eight 14,000 TEU (twenty foot equivalent unit) container ships and twelve 24,000 TEU vessels [the largest ever built]. In Sept 2018, they ordered the first of the 24,000 TEU ships.
HMM Algercias was launched in April 2020 (just 20 months after the order for the first vessel). HMM St Petersburg, not the second ship, nor the fourth, or the eighth, but the LAST OF THE DOZEN was delivered on Sept 13, 2020. She is currently underway on in the East China Sea.
The other eleven ships, delivered over the past six months are in service along the Europe-Middle East-Asia run.
These are 1,312 foot ships, 200 foot beam, capable of carrying 23,964 containers and gross tonnage of 228,283 tons. That is over 2.7 MILLION tons of shipping, over a quarter of million container capacity, and 2.6 nautical miles length of ships delivered from point of order in only TWO YEARS.
Now, I know that container ships are not warships, but the idea that we will not see the first of the FFG(X)s, built to an already established design in ten years, along with the issues with LCS and the Ford CVN, has to make one wonder why are we not learning from the Koreans, the Japanese and the Chinese who are building 90% of the world’s ships today.
By the way, what you will find is that they are using many of the methods that the US pioneered in the 20th century and a style of business that requires a completed design and no changes once contracts are let.

I did say in THIS post that legislation has recently worked in the NY State Legislature. Federal legislation would be harder but is not impossible.

But the new NY bills worked because a few highly intelligent people systematically investigated the problems and identified specific pain points then spent time on the ground at those pain points.

So it can be done but we have a lot of work to do FIRST before we even consider approaching congress for help.

We’ve tried lobbying. Most unions have a PAC and there is the AMP.
We have tried arguing with each other.
We have tried Title 11 programs
We have tried petitions and letter-writing campaigns
We have held countless conferences, expos and seminars
We have had government reports published
We have written countless articles
We have pleaded with the US Navy for help
MARAD has invested thousands of man-hours into countless programs
We have lifted protectionist laws for certain industry segments (e.g. seismic vessels)
We have tried giving certain naval shipyards incentives to build merchant ships.
We have had many US Shipping companies hire consultants
We have studied the problem in some of our top business schools.
We have had diplomatic sessions with NATO and our closest Allies.
I could go on…

There has been plenty of meaningful bills written in the last 20 years… but none of them have passed into law.