The House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee hearings on Wednesday

It’s long but warrants being watched in its entirety

[B]The Status of the Merchant Marine


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

This is a hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.

Witness List:

Mr. Mark Tabbutt, Chairman, Saltchuk Resources | Written Testimony
Mr. Niels Johnsen, Chairman/CEO, International Shipholding Corporation | Written Testimony
Mr. Don Marcus, President, Masters, Mates and Pilots | Written Testimony
Mr. Matthew Paxton, President, Shipbuilders Council of America | Written Testimony

Opening Statement

The Subcommittee is meeting today to review issues impacting the U.S. merchant marine, the important role it plays in our economy and national security, and ways we can work together to strengthen and expand the merchant marine.

The U.S. maritime industry currently employs more than 260,000 Americans, providing nearly $29 billion in annual wages. There are more than 40,000 commercial vessels currently flying the American flag. The vast majority of these vessels are engaged in domestic commerce, moving over 100 million passengers and $400 billion worth of goods between ports in the U.S. on an annual basis. Each year, the U.S. maritime industry accounts for over $100 billion in economic output.

Beyond the important contributions to our economy, a healthy merchant marine is vital to our national security. Throughout our history, our nation has relied on U.S. flagged commercial vessels crewed by American Merchant Mariners to carry troops, weapons, and supplies to the battlefield. During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, U.S. flagged commercial vessels transported 63 percent of all military cargoes moved to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Unfortunately, over the last 35 years, the number of U.S. flagged vessels sailing in the international trade has dropped from 850 to less than 90. Less than two percent of the world’s tonnage now moves on U.S. flagged vessels. In the same period, we have lost over 300 shipyards and thousands of jobs for American mariners. For the sake of our national and economic security, we need to reverse this trend.

We cannot rely on foreign vessels and crews to provide for our national security. It is critical that we maintain a robust fleet of U.S. flagged vessels to carry critical supplies to the battlefield, a large cadre of skilled American mariners to man those vessels, and a strong shipyard industrial base to ensure we have the capability to build and replenish our naval forces in times of war.

I know the new Maritime Administrator is hard at work on a national maritime strategy that will hopefully include recommendations to strengthen the merchant marine. As soon as the strategy is complete, I look forward to calling him before the Subcommittee to present it. In the meantime, representatives of maritime industry and labor have been working on a similar proposal at the request of Ranking Member Garamendi and myself. I look forward to hearing about that proposal today, as well as other recommendations our witnesses may have.

If we want to grow our economy and remain a world power capable of defending ourselves and our allies, we must work together to strengthen our merchant marine. I thank the witnesses for appearing today and look forward to working with them.

Chairman Hunter commented on the small turnout at the subcommittee. Perhaps gcaptain needs to send over a delegation to the next one :wink:

nice bit of press coming from the hearings including this…

[B]US Shippers Seek Role In Transport Of LNG, Oil Exports[/B]

The US government should ensure that international trade of US natural gas, and potentially crude oil, will offer opportunities for the domestic shipping industry, maritime groups say.

by Reuters Wednesday, September 10, 2014

WASHINGTON, Sept 10 (Reuters) - The U.S. government should ensure that international trade of U.S. natural gas, and potentially crude oil, will offer opportunities for the domestic shipping industry, maritime groups said on Wednesday.

Booming shale gas production has put the United States on track to become a major exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the next few years.

While it would take time for U.S. shipyards to scale up to produce to the vessels needed to transport LNG overseas, shipping industry groups encouraged lawmakers at a House transportation subcommittee hearing to pursue efforts to encourage the use of U.S. flagged vessels.

“The export of LNG offers an opportunity for the United States merchant marine to expand and to create significant new job opportunities for American mariners,” said Don Marcus, president of the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots.

Congressman John Garamendi, the top Democrat on the House maritime transportation subcommittee, and Duncan Hunter, the Republican chairman of the subcommittee, introduced a bill in July that would require the Transportation Department to develop a program to promote the use of U.S. flagged vessels for LNG exports.

The bill would also require the department to give priority to applications for deepwater port terminals that would use U.S. ships.

Marcus urged lawmakers to expand the bill to crude oil exports, if the decades old ban on such shipments is lifted.

At the subcommittee hearing, Garamendi stressed that countries set to purchase U.S. LNG, such as India, have requirements that a certain number of the ships used to transport the LNG must come from their domestic fleet.

He said the United States should enter into agreements with these countries that would mandate that some of the ships transporting LNG would also be from the United States.

No action is expected on the LNG shipping bill this year, Hunter told Reuters after the hearing. He said he hopes to continue to push for passage of the bill next year, but the industry needs to work to make these issues more prominent.

At the start of the hearing, Hunter noted the low attendance by lawmakers at the meeting compared with hearings on aviation or trucking.

“We have to build support,” Hunter said. “I think the industry has to do a better job of talking to Congress.”

The hearing also touched on the nearly century old Jones Act, which requires that ships moving between U.S. ports are U.S.-built, U.S.- flagged and U.S.-crewed.

Garamendi urged the groups at the hearing to inform the committee of any waivers to the Jones Act that may be unwarranted so that lawmakers can take action to attempt to overturn them.

Garamendi and Hunter…two very good men who both know how important the Jones Act and US flag shipping are for our economy and defense!