The acting head of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd) said his agency is taking a “leading role” in developing a new blueprint to revitalize the industry.
Paul “Chip” Jaenichen addressed the Maritime Trades Department (MTD), AFL-CIO on Sept. 6, and he offered a realistic look at the tough challenges facing the maritime industry along with an outline for how to tackle them.
Echoing some of the other speakers at the two-day convention, Jaenichen said, “The nation needs a maritime policy. It needs a strategy. The Maritime Administration is going to take a leading role.”
He said the agency in mid-November will host a symposium in the nation’s capital to help develop such a strategy.
“We’ve got to figure out how to reinvigorate the U.S. Merchant Marine,” he said. “By actively collaborating, I’m convinced we can help ensure that we create a process and develop a maritime strategy that actually works, is inclusive, is far-reaching and long-lasting.
“You are the backbone of American prosperity,” he continued. “We are a maritime nation; that’s not ever going to change. The men and women that you support in the industry at sea and also those who work ashore to support those folks and everybody who’s earning an income to support their families – that’s what's important and that’s why we’re here.”
A retired career U.S. Navy officer, Jaenichen said that following his appointment last year as acting administrator, one of his first actions was setting “a new strategic vision for the agency.” That vision is summarized in four words, he said: cargo, infrastructure, readiness, and advocacy.
Jaenichen said his 30 years in the Navy – including 14 years in seagoing assignments – made him clearly understand “what it takes to have a strong maritime nation.”
After having visited MarAd’s 46 Ready Reserve Force (RRF) ships during the past year, most of which are SIU-crewed, he stated, “One of the things that I found on every single one of the ships was that the maritime labor on board was professional and dedicated. They are definitely true patriots.”
Like other speakers, Jaenichen described the industry as being “at a crossroads.” He talked about budget battles and attacks on American-flag shipping, and said that although he is optimistic about revitalization, “it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to require some heavy lifting by Congress, it’s going to require some heavy lifting by policy, it’s going to require heavy lifting by folks in this room.”
He said MarAd (along with other advocates, including the MTD and SIU) is fighting to protect the Maritime Security Program (MSP), one of the industry’s staples since its enactment 1996. However, due to mandatory federal spending cuts, the government this year “for the first time in the history of that program [is] not going to pay all those operators what they were required to be paid by their contract.”
After detailing some of the efforts to boost the MSP, Jaenichen said that from a broader perspective, “The good news is that even with all these challenges and the looming fiscal budget, and along with sequestration’s unintended impacts or unintended consequences, there are some things that haven’t changed. And that’s the fact that America can still rely on its maritime industry to power trade and prosperity, during peace time and in war. But more importantly, they're ready to provide the essential sealift that we need, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a humanitarian crisis or whether troops need their equipment overseas, they’re ready to go and they’re ready to do it today. Not tomorrow, not next week, they’re ready to do it today.”
He then saluted the mariners who assisted in Superstorm Sandy relief efforts, citing that operation as just one example of civilian mariners answering the nation’s call.
Other positive developments mentioned by the acting administrator included new-build programs at Aker Philadelphia Shipyard and General Dynamics NASSCO, plus “increased demand from the Gulf and the oil industry.”
He added that liquefied natural gas (LNG) – both as fuel and cargo – offers promising new opportunities for Jones Act ships and the yards that build them. With that in mind, MarAd is funding a $500,000 LNG bunkering study.
Jaenichen also said MarAd has successfully implemented fairer, stricter and more transparent guidelines for Jones Act waivers.
“We strongly support the Jones Act,” he stated. “I’m going to be fighting for it every day to make sure that it continues to work. We’re going to enforce it.”
Returning to the agency’s plans for developing a national maritime strategy, Jaenichen said, “We sink or swim together, and no one’s success or failure is necessarily an isolated event. So it’s up to everyone involved – it’s government, it’s labor, it’s shipowners, it’s shippers, it’s manufacturers. We’ve got to get together.”