The ranking member of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee sees a potentially great marriage between two domestic assets that are vital to America.
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), speaking at a Washington, D.C., Propeller Club luncheon May 8, said the burgeoning natural gas industry makes for a substantial opportunityto boost U.S. shipbuilding and the U.S. Merchant Marine. He told the audience that up to 100 new ships could be needed for natural gas exports from a half-dozen U.S. ports.
He got plenty of applause when he added, “If we’re going to export LNG, then it must be done on American-made ships with American mariners.”
The SIU had a strong turnout for the gathering, which took place during a busy week for the maritime industry in the nation’s capital. Attendees included SIU President Michael Sacco, Executive Vice President Augie Tellez, Secretary-Treasurer David Heindel, Vice President Contracts George Tricker, Vice President West Coast Nick Marrone, Vice President Atlantic Coast Joseph Soresi and Vice President Great Lakes and Inland Waters Tom Orzechowski.
Garamendi said he believes public policy neglect has harmed the American maritime industry, but “public policy can drive a resurgence.”
He pointed to natural gas, including liquefied natural gas or LNG, as “a huge opportunity” for the maritime industry and described it as one of the nation’s strategic resources.
Another such resource, Garamendi said, is the shipbuilding industry. He called it “a fundamental asset – a fundamental strategic part of our nation – from the very beginnings even before we were a nation…. However, today we are on a trajectory to lose the ability to [build] ships.”
He said without orders from the U.S. Navy, the industry “is gone. But, by combining two of the strategic resources this nation still has – natural gas and shipbuilders – we can rebuild and strengthen and keep the American maritime industry in relatively better shape.”
This can be achieved through strong political partnerships involving all components of the respective industries, the congressman said. When it comes to delivering the message, “You say it is in the strategic national security interests of this nation to have a shipbuilding industry – for the U.S. Navy, for the Coast Guard, and for jobs in America,” Garamendi said. “It is a national security issue. You combine that with the strategic asset of natural gas…. We’ve got to work together to make this happen.”
Turning to the ongoing fight to protect cargo preference laws including the Food for Peace program, Garamendi candidly said the program “remains at risk.”
He emphasized that turning the program into a cash giveaway would be disastrous. This is a personal issue for the congressman, not just a political one – he and his wife have volunteered in famine-stricken areas overseas for many years.
“We know what it means when a sack of grain arrives and it has the U.S. flag on it,” he stated.