March 17th 2021

The leaders of six maritime unions have written to President Biden thanking him for his support for America’s mariners and suggesting actions the administration can take to strengthen the US-flag fleet.

“You have expressed strong support for the US-flag maritime industry and for the American merchant mariners who crew these vessels,” the union presidents wrote.

“We greatly appreciate your comments and support, and in particular, the specific reference to the Jones Act in your Buy American Executive Order…”

MM&P President Don Marcus joined the leaders of five other maritime unions in encouraging the Administration to create more jobs for mariners by supporting legislation to increase—to 100 percent from the current 50 percent—the percentage of non-defense US-government-generated cargoes reserved for US-flag vessels.

An increase to 100 percent would match the current requirement for the carriage of defense cargoes.

The six union leaders also called on the Administration and Congress to boost US carriers’ role in foreign trade by offering tax incentives to organizations that transport their cargoes on US-flag vessels.

In addition, they asked the Administration to:

— negotiate cargo-sharing agreements with trading partners;

— advocate for funding for a US tanker security fleet;

— include full funding for the Maritime Security Program for Fiscal Year 2022 in the White House budget submission to Congress.

The need for action is urgent, the union presidents warned, because the industry’s viability is at risk as a result of competition from state-owned merchant fleets, such as that of the People’s Republic of China; flag-of-convenience carriers; and foreign-flag fleets “that operate in tax-free, regulation-free environments in which they are not required to provide their crews with even the most basic labor standards.”

“The reality is that less than 2 percent of America’s foreign trade is carried on our ships,” they wrote, “resulting in a precipitous decline in the number of US-flag ships engaged in the international trades and a corresponding decline in the strategically important civilian mariner manpower pool.”

The unions said they stand ready to work with President Biden, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and Acting Maritime Administrator Lucinda Lessley to develop policies and programs to increase the number of jobs available to American maritime workers.

The letter was signed by MM&P President Don Marcus, SUP President David Connolly, AMO President Paul Doell, MFOW President Anthony Poplawski, SIU President Michael Sacco and MEBA President Adam Vokac.