Ceremony Stresses Maritime’s National Security Role

June 2010

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To the casual observer, the sight of the MV Endurance docked in Baltimore may have been eye-catching because of the vessel’s size (860 feet) and attractive new paint job.

But to General Duncan McNabb, commander of the U.S. Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), the SIU-crewed ship signifies something infinitely more important than the cosmetic.

Giving the keynote address at a May 14 ceremony aboard the recently reflagged ship, McNabb said the Endurance and other vessels in the
American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier (ARC) fleet “represent a critical roll-on/roll-off capability that responds directly to the evolving logistics requirements of the combatant commanders. At U.S. Transportation Command our focus is on supporting these war fighters – providing the end-to-end deployment and distribution solutions to bring them what they need, where they need it, and when they need it. Overall, more than 90 percent of what we deliver in support of the combatant commanders is moved by sea. The vast majority of that is through commercial shipping; (there are) 35 ships loading, off-loading or underway at any given time. We accomplish this with great precision and at the greatest value…. Ships like the Endurance represent a key element in that capability.”

He recalled being in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001 and said that in the big picture, America’s ability to support its armed forces “is about the future of mankind…. This really is a battle of good over evil, of hope over despair, of light over darkness, of freedom over tyranny. It’s going to be a long war; we’ll stay at it and we will win.”

SIU President Michael Sacco also was a featured speaker at the Baltimore event, as were acting Maritime Administrator David Matsuda and ARC President and CEO Raymond Ebeling, who served as master of ceremonies. Linda McNabb, the general’s wife, was the vessel’s sponsor.

Hundreds of guests attended the ceremony, including other high-ranking military officers, active and retired congressional representatives, SIU members and officials and others from various maritime industry components.

The Endurance is operated by Crowley for ARC, which described the vessel as “the largest and most militarily useful, multi-purpose RO/RO ship in the U.S.-flag commercial fleet.” It was built in 1996 and entered service under the American flag in mid-February. The ship has nine decks and is enrolled in the U.S. Maritime Security Program (MSP), a vital part of the U.S. Merchant Marine’s foundation.

Throughout the ceremony, each speaker cited the critical value of civilian mariners and the effective partnership that exists among maritime labor, management, the military and backers in government.

McNabb pointed out that since 2004, ARC ships “have set sail over 1,500 times and carried over 5 million tons of cargo in support of our war fighters.”

He credited mariners for their reliability dating to the country’s founding, and said the unlicensed apprentices from the SIU-affiliated Paul Hall Center who were in attendance symbolized “that next generation, and you’re raising your hand for freedom. This next generation is stepping up magnificently. You all are awesome.”

McNabb added that the commercial fleet and civilian mariners “serve the nation today as a crucial part of the U.S. transportation team. You bring our nation strategic advantage no other nation has. You provide America with logistics superiority over any and all adversaries. You enable our war fighters to fight and to win. You help us to keep our promise to them.”

Ebeling said the ship’s name is appropriate as America continues its years-long efforts in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom as well as in national economic recovery.

He pointed out that ARC is the third-largest U.S.-flag international carrier and noted that the company “has now invested $500 million in U.S.-flag shipping … and is committed to future investment.”

He said the U.S.-flag fleet has been saved by “a unique labor-management partnership, by the powerful support of the U.S. Transportation Command, by the decisive action of certain congressional supporters and, I would specifically note, by the investment by overseas investors of $2.5 billion in U.S.-flag international carriers.”

Ebeling credited Sacco for seeing “more clearly than most, perhaps all, that the relationship with industry and labor has to be win-win.” Speaking of the entire ARC team, including its mariners, he praised them for helping the company grow and then asked, “Where might we be 10 years from now? At ARC, we plan to be right here. We plan to keep on going and keep on growing, and we need your help to do that.”

Sacco thanked McNabb and Ebeling for their respective efforts on behalf of American mariners. He said that although the maritime industry often seems overlooked by the general public, “we’ve been in the headlines a lot during the past several years, and I think people are starting to appreciate more and more who we are and why our work matters. U.S. mariners are the ones who rescued the passengers and flight crew during the Miracle on the Hudson just a little more than a year ago. U.S. mariners are the ones who fought back against the pirates aboard the Maersk Alabama –a development that brought some much-needed attention and action to a very serious problem off the coast of Somalia.

U.S. mariners are the ones who sailed the hospital ship USNS Comfort to Haiti right after the earthquake, along with many other civilian-crewed ships bringing relief to that nation. And of course, U.S. mariners are the men and women who’ve been there from day one in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, supporting our troops and delivering the food, fuel, vehicles and ammunition they need.”

He added that without a strong U.S. Merchant Marine, “it would only be a matter of time before our nation became an economic hostage of other countries whose ships call on our ports. Without us, I wouldn’t even want to imagine who we could really count on to deliver the vital supplies to our armed forces.”

Matsuda said that the program in which the Endurance is enrolled, the MSP, “is effective and a good value. I’m delighted to welcome such a modern, impressive ship into the U.S.-flag fleet. These ships and the mariners who sail aboard them are the invisible heroes of the American logistics and commerce chain.”

He cited the importance of investments made by commercial operators and “the bravery and intrepidness of our civilian merchant mariners.”

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