SIU Testifies for U.S.-Flag Shipping, Food Aid (11/23)


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On November 18, the House of Representatives conducted a joint hearing of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation and the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture of the Agriculture Committee, to discuss the impact that the U.S. International Food Aid Programs have on U.S.-flag shipping, defense and the economy. The hearing was headed by Chairman David Rouzer (R-North Carolina), Chairman Duncan Hunter (R-California), Ranking Member Jim Costa (D-California) and Ranking Member John Garamendi (D-California).


Also in attendance at the hearing were Chairman Mike Conaway (R-Texas), Representatives Garret Graves (R-Louisiana), Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), Elijah Cummings (D-Maryland), Trent Kelly (R-Mississippi), Vicky Hartzler (R-Missouri) and Janice Hahn (D-California). The hearing was divided into two panels: The first heard testimonies from Mr. David J. Berteau, Assistant Secretary of Defense, Logistics and Material Readiness, Department of Defense and Paul “Chip” Jaenichen, Sr., Administrator, Maritime Administration (MARAD).


The second panel included SIU Legislative Director Brian Schoeneman, as well as James E. Caponiti, President, American Maritime Congress; Philip Shapiro, President and CEO, Liberty Maritime Corporation; and Captain John W. Murray, President and CEO, Hapag-Lloyd USA.


The purpose of the hearing was perhaps best summarized in Hunter’s opening statement: “The United States agriculture community and maritime industry are critical components of United States international food aid. For sixty years, these entities have supplied and delivered food to hungry people around the world. The United States Agency for International Development has proposed reforming cargo preference by shifting from vessel category to cargo type, applying the 50 percent cargo preference requirement on a three-region basis, and adjusting how the 50 percent cargo preference is met using a combination of United States flag commercial vessels and foreign vessels.  While these proposals may have merit, further discussion on them is needed.”


The panelists then presented and submitted their testimonies, which can be viewed here: 


Afterwards, they answered questions asked by the members of Congress, on topics including the Food for Peace program, the Maritime Security Program and the Ready Reserve Force, the economic state of U.S.-flag shipping and more.


Schoeneman also responded to a line of questioning about the reduced number of well-trained merchant mariners in the current pool, saying, “When we don’t have ships sailing, when we don’t have jobs available for our members, that has a real impact on their credentials and their ability to remain actively serving in the Merchant Marine. Under the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW), those rules require strict amounts of time at sea in order to maintain – for officers, their licenses; for our unlicensed members, all of their endorsements – they have to be working in order to do that.”


However, all of the panelists kept American jobs at the forefront of the discussion. When asked by Representative Garamendi about the possibility of exporting oil on American ships, Shapiro responded: “Congressman, I support all programs that call for the building of ships and the employment of merchant mariners.”


Echoing that thought, Schoeneman replied, “Mr. Garamendi, you get us the jobs, we’ll fill them.”


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