Warning Shot: "[T}he rapid depletion of the U.S. commercial fleet size" and a shortage of civilian mariners as threat to National Security

From Eagle Speak -[Warning Shot: "T}he rapid depletion of the U.S. commercial fleet size" and a shortage of civilian mariners as threat to National Security

This warning from Dr. Sashi Kumar in the paywall protected USNI Proceedings article 2018 U.S. Merchant Marine and World Maritime Review is timely and important.

this is referred to as preaching to the choir

nothing new here folks…move along

1 Like

Ray Charles could see this coming…

1 Like

Scratch 1 off of the 11,768 total of qualified unlimited mariners available to crew the Ready Reserve Force. I’m not so interested in leaving my wife & young kids for 6+ months to work on an outdated rust bucket to help fight a war that we probably don’t have any reason fighting to start with.

This article makes me wonder what percentage of mariners would be willing to give up their cushy living conditions on newer vessels where they work even time with good communications to work with a haphazard crew on an ancient ship going into a war zone off of some 3rd world continent?


Anyone ever been contacted through the “Mariner Outreach System”.

11,768 fully qualified Unlimited officers sounds like a lot for only 61 ships. It’s almost 200 officers per ship.

But 61 old ships doesn’t sound like much of a sealift capability.

This report sounds to me like another plea for taxpayer money to support a bloated defense budget. Dr. Kumar is a MARAD guy of KP which alone makes him suspect.
This supposed employee shortage could be easily alleviated by proper pay and time off. It is kinda like current reports of a shortage of employees, The USA is supposedly down to about < 4% unemployment rate. There are a lot of holes one can punch into the official unemployment rate but one is wage growth which is not happening. That is simple free market economics. Wages on average have not gone up past the inflation rate so employers have all the people they need apparently; otherwise wages go up as employers grab qualified workers from other companies. Once wages start going up I will believe there is a shortage of employees, until then? It is all BS

Maybe that total includes unlimited AB’s? But even with 200 possible mariners per ship I doubt the government could crew 61 ships unless the pay was astronomical. I would like to think most unlimited officers have already found comfortable nitches in the industry & wouldn’t want to give them up to go to war for 6 months to a year straight. Maybe we could make those poor saps in the US Navy & recently graduated cadets crew those ships if we had to?

The UK threw away it,s maritime fleet, partially on account of expensive manning regulations.
Then we threw away our ship building capacity as we no longer had any need to build UK registered ships.
Then we lost the engineering knowledge and skills that people took with them when they retired from the profession and went into finance.
Then the City changed from being populated by people who knew what they were talking about to populated by people gamblers who wrote computer programs.

Then we had the financial meltdown. The UK is near bankrupt, (but don’t tell anyone).

There is a lot of good wisdom in the article… even if it is also a plea for more cash.

1 Like

I think most of the 11,768 Unlimited officers are no longer sailing. Some retired. Some laid off from the oil patch, or elsewhere. Some working at power plants, shipyards, and other shoreside jobs. Many have never sailed on a deepsea ship. I’d guess that at least half have not been to sea in awhile and will probably never sail again.

The US flag fleet of commercial deepsea and Jones Act vessels over 1600 GRT is only approximately 70 ships. I heard somewhere that there are 26 Great Lakes ore ships. So say 100 ships with 10 officers = 1000 times two for rotation = 2000 jobs for unlimited officers. How many jobs in the oil patch require US citizen unlimited officers? Maybe another 2000?

How many unlimited officers have current full STCW, radar, etc., with all required refreshers and Revalidations?

180 ships over 1000 tons, 99 of those are Jones Act, 81 non-jones Act.

A quick count, 16 of those ships are under 10,000 tons.

Interesting, but clearly a mixture of apples and oranges.

The 6 Coastal Transportation vessels are similar to SNOWBIRD, all under 500 GRT, have no COI, and operate under the pretence of being “fishing vessels” exclusively carrying freight to fish plants pursuant to the Aleutian Trade Act. These vessels do not require unlimited licenses, just one Master of Uninspected Fishing Vessels and one Mate of Uninspected Fishing Vessels, and one Chief Engineer of Uninspected Fishing Vessels. My guess would be that these 6 vessels probably produce 25 jobs for officers. Maybe half the officers hold unlimited 3rd Mate or 3AE.

Similarly, SEA TRADER AND EASTERN WIND are Trident’s “fishing vessel” freighters.

The former Transatlantic Lines ships, TRANSATLANTIC is in Ensenada, hopefully for ship-breaking, and GEYSIR is still in Jacksonville.

I wonder how many of the ships on the list are actively trading and providing seagoing employment for a two full crews.

Of the 180 16 are under 10,000 tons. Also the number is unlimited mariners, not just officers. So I’d gues 180-16=164+61 reserve is about 225 ships, plus MSC.

225 ships x 20 crew = 4500, two crew each is 9000.

I have meet with my Congressman & a Senator concerning the Jones Act. I have also sent several emails about it as well as spoke about it openingly in public meetings. I always start off the same way. I tell the public servant, “The people can find a politician from India or China who is willing to do their job for us for a fifth of the cost of an American politician. We can also hire cheaper foreign doctors, foreign nurses, foreign truck drivers, foreign postal workers, foreign barbers, foreign school teachers etc. to work for pennies on the dollar. But thank God we have laws that protects our jobs & prevents everyone in the middle class from being replaced with cheaper 3rd world labor.” I then tell them we also have laws that protects hundreds of thousands of midddle class Americans like myself who works in the American maritime industry. It’s called the Jones Act & the majority of the time it does more for the middle class than it does for national security. Butchering or disposing of the Jones Act would be no different that getting rid of labor laws that protects Americans workers on land.

So far all of my public officials have told me they support the Jones Act. (But of course politicians lie).

With the number of ships & mariners stated in this thread it is obvious the Jones Act is more of a middle class protection law & only barely a national defense law. Since that is all we have we should stick with it.

1 Like

I believe the numbers given are with the regards to the required size of the U.S. fleet, hence the number of mariners needed, to maintain the minimum number of mariners for the reserve fleet.

A recent report to Congress identified the need for 13,607 qualified mariners for sustaining the mobilization and commercial operations concurrently under highly optimistic assumptions of no loss of life or property. The identified pool of mariners will therefore provide three to four months of force projection support at best, taking into account the necessary crew rotations.

A few years ago someone posted some even older statistics on the number of different types of US licenses. My recollect is something like 50,000 MMCs, but I am probably way off.

One would think that the USCG and Marad would have good up to date statistics. It should not take more than a few button pushes at NMC to generate reports, but if so, I have not seen them.

They do have accurate numbers. It’s definitely not just pulling out how many mariners hold a given credential. For example, every unlimited deck license holder is also AB-Unlimited. But including Mates and Captains in a query about how many mariners are available to serve as AB would not produce reliable numbers, a Chief Mate or Master is not going to take a position as AB. So there were a number of data validation ruiles that had to be added to the queries. Coming up with the data rules to make the results accurate was the challenge.

The most useful numbers would be based upon the highest endorsement held, and any special endorsements (like towing), such as how many:

Chief Mates
2nd Mates
3rd Mates
Chief Engineers
AB Unlimited
AB Limited
AB Special
Other QMEDs

I’d also like to know how many:

Master or Mate of Towing, Oceans, near coastal, Inland, and Western Rivers.

Same for other licenses

Hold your horses. It is my dream to make one trip as AB or Third Mate before retirement just to act like I know nothing and have no interest in practicing seamanship. :drooling_face:


Someone posted awhile ago that she has unlimited master, but has had to sail AB with SIU in order to find work.

That does not sound like a shortage of mariners to me.