News

WITH ONLY 78 SHIPS LEFT IN U.S.-FLAG FLEET, “THE SITUATION IS DIRE,” MM&P PRESIDENT SAYS

May 25th 2016

Our industry has long been a victim of peacetime neglect, says MM&P President Don Marcus, but the size of the U.S.-flag fleet is now at a level that should set alarm bells ringing throughout the halls of government.

“The sad fact is that the legacy of those who came before us will be nothing more than monuments and museum ships if the present trend in the global economic system and in our national priorities continues on the current course,” Marcus said in a Maritime Day address delivered at the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial in San Pedro, Calif.

For at least the past 120 years, the industry has suffered through “a relentless cycle of neglect and revitalization,” to the point that the motto of the American Merchant Marine, “In Peace and War,” might more aptly be rendered “In Poverty or War,” he said.

This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Shipping Act of 1916, legislation that arose out of shipping crises when the start of World War I in 1914 resulted in not enough shipping to carry U.S. trade. A severe recession resulted and a crash project to build a U.S. merchant marine followed.

When the decision was made to pour resources into the industry at that juncture, the U.S. Merchant Marine carried less than 8 percent of U.S. seaborne foreign commerce. Today the situation is far worse: it is estimated in fact that today U.S.-flag ships carry only about 1 percent of our foreign commerce. (MARAD stopped calculating the percentage in 2003 when it fell below 2 percent.)

“As we meet here today, the United States is back to a bare-bones merchant fleet with barely enough trained mariners necessary to support U.S. military in a moderate and short-term military conflict,” Marcus warned.

He also noted that 2016 marks 101 years since passage of the landmark Seamen’s Act of 1915. It is a bittersweet anniversary, Marcus said, because the law was followed almost immediately by the introduction of flag-of-convenience (FOC) shipping, a model that dominates our industry and is now spreading throughout the global economy, a case in point being the Department of Transportation’s recent decision to grant U.S. landing rights to an FOC airline that sources its cabin and flight crews in low-wage countries.

“Where does the national interest lie in this decision and scores of others that have put the merchant marine, aviation, shipyards, the steel industry and other strategic national industries, and American workers with them, on the proverbial chopping block?” he asked.

“The trend in the global economy and in the corridors of political power is diametrically and philosophically opposed to what we would like to achieve: a strong national industry that is an economic engine in its own right during peacetime and not simply a naval auxiliary maintaining logistics in time of war.”

He called the government’s response to the decline of our industry “by and large pitiful,” comparing the U.S. situation to that of China, which carries 90 percent of its foreign commerce aboard its own vessels, builds its own ships and has seven out of 10 of the world’s busiest ports.

A national maritime policy is essential, Marcus said, but if that goal cannot be achieved, the next administration must at the very least “re-affirm, support and enhance the existing maritime programs… We must raise our collective voices if even this modest goal is to be achieved,” he said.

He called for full funding of the Maritime Security Program, enforcement of cargo preference laws, restoring the U.S.-flag share of the Food for Peace program, returning the Export-Import Bank to full functionality, funding the Title XI Shipbuilding Loan Program and tax incentives to shippers and carriers to help finance the rebuilding of merchant marine infrastructure.

Marcus took the opportunity to commend Congressman John Garamendi (D-Calif.) for his efforts to promote the use of U.S-flag vessels in energy exports. He also thanked Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) and others in Congress working for passage of HR 563, the “Thank You to World War II Merchant Mariners” bill.

“It was an honor for me to accompany some of the veterans last year in their march on Congress in support of HR 563,” he said. “The sacrifices of these mariners are scarcely remembered by Congress. However, we remember and we are proud to follow in the shadow of those who served so courageously and gave so much.”WITH ONLY 78 SHIPS LEFT IN U.S.-FLAG FLEET, “THE SITUATION IS DIRE,” MM&P PRESIDENT SAYS

Our industry has long been a victim of peacetime neglect, says MM&P President Don Marcus, but the size of the U.S.-flag fleet is now at a level that should set alarm bells ringing throughout the halls of government.

“The sad fact is that the legacy of those who came before us will be nothing more than monuments and museum ships if the present trend in the global economic system and in our national priorities continues on the current course,” Marcus said in a Maritime Day address delivered at the American Merchant Marine Veterans Memorial in San Pedro, Calif.

For at least the past 120 years, the industry has suffered through “a relentless cycle of neglect and revitalization,” to the point that the motto of the American Merchant Marine, “In Peace and War,” might more aptly be rendered “In Poverty or War,” he said.

This year is the 100th Anniversary of the Shipping Act of 1916, legislation that arose out of shipping crises when the start of World War I in 1914 resulted in not enough shipping to carry U.S. trade. A severe recession resulted and a crash project to build a U.S. merchant marine followed.

When the decision was made to pour resources into the industry at that juncture, the U.S. Merchant Marine carried less than 8 percent of U.S. seaborne foreign commerce. Today the situation is far worse: it is estimated in fact that today U.S.-flag ships carry only about 1 percent of our foreign commerce. (MARAD stopped calculating the percentage in 2003 when it fell below 2 percent.)

“As we meet here today, the United States is back to a bare-bones merchant fleet with barely enough trained mariners necessary to support U.S. military in a moderate and short-term military conflict,” Marcus warned.

He also noted that 2016 marks 101 years since passage of the landmark Seamen’s Act of 1915. It is a bittersweet anniversary, Marcus said, because the law was followed almost immediately by the introduction of flag-of-convenience (FOC) shipping, a model that dominates our industry and is now spreading throughout the global economy, a case in point being the Department of Transportation’s recent decision to grant U.S. landing rights to an FOC airline that sources its cabin and flight crews in low-wage countries.

“Where does the national interest lie in this decision and scores of others that have put the merchant marine, aviation, shipyards, the steel industry and other strategic national industries, and American workers with them, on the proverbial chopping block?” he asked.

“The trend in the global economy and in the corridors of political power is diametrically and philosophically opposed to what we would like to achieve: a strong national industry that is an economic engine in its own right during peacetime and not simply a naval auxiliary maintaining logistics in time of war.”

He called the government’s response to the decline of our industry “by and large pitiful,” comparing the U.S. situation to that of China, which carries 90 percent of its foreign commerce aboard its own vessels, builds its own ships and has seven out of 10 of the world’s busiest ports.

A national maritime policy is essential, Marcus said, but if that goal cannot be achieved, the next administration must at the very least “re-affirm, support and enhance the existing maritime programs… We must raise our collective voices if even this modest goal is to be achieved,” he said.

He called for full funding of the Maritime Security Program, enforcement of cargo preference laws, restoring the U.S.-flag share of the Food for Peace program, returning the Export-Import Bank to full functionality, funding the Title XI Shipbuilding Loan Program and tax incentives to shippers and carriers to help finance the rebuilding of merchant marine infrastructure.

Marcus took the opportunity to commend Congressman John Garamendi (D-Calif.) for his efforts to promote the use of U.S-flag vessels in energy exports. He also thanked Rep. Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) and others in Congress working for passage of HR 563, the “Thank You to World War II Merchant Mariners” bill.

“It was an honor for me to accompany some of the veterans last year in their march on Congress in support of HR 563,” he said. “The sacrifices of these mariners are scarcely remembered by Congress. However, we remember and we are proud to follow in the shadow of those who served so courageously and gave so much.”