Battle to Protect Maritime Industry

Seafarers Log, March 2011

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Michael Sacco, PresidentOur industry got a shot across the bow in mid-February when the president’s proposed budget severely cut a vital program known as cargo preference and basically didn’t fund another key initiative called the Title XI Shipbuilding Loan Guarantee Program.


I know that for rank-and-file Seafarers, talks about budgets and appropriations may not seem very interesting, but the important part of this development is that both cargo preference and Title XI mean American maritime jobs, including shipboard employment. They create and sustain related shoreside work, too, and that’s not a light consideration in the face of today’s staggering unemployment figures.


The budget battles are far from finished, and the maritime industry certainly isn’t the only one to feel a financial squeeze during these ongoing, difficult economic times. However, not all of the recent news from Washington was as troubling – the budget request includes full funding of the crucial Maritime Security Program (MSP), for instance.


Meanwhile, Seafarers should know that your union constantly promotes the laws and programs that are the very foundations of the U.S. Merchant Marine. They include the MSP, the Jones Act, cargo preference, Title XI and others. In recent months, especially since Election Day, we have joined with representatives from virtually every segment of our industry to remind Congress and the administration that America’s national and economic security depend in part on maintaining a viable fleet of American-crewed, militarily useful, privately owned U.S.-flag ships. Within that equation is maintaining a strong shipbuilding capability; that’s a lesson our country learned during World War II, and one we can’t afford to forget.


In the coming weeks, you may be asked by your port agent to help continue educating our elected representatives about the importance of laws like cargo preference and Title XI. Grassroots political action remains one of our greatest strengths, and I know you will answer the call when it comes.


Supporting Our Military
Our role as part of the nation’s fourth arm of defense often involves direct support of our troops who are fighting to protect our freedom. It also involves other military and government support missions that are less-publicized but quite important, too.


Recently, two such instances took place. In one case, SIU members assisted in a vital, multinational military exercise known as Cobra Gold, along with a related drill. In another, Seafarers helped resupply the research facility at McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Both of those projects – enthusiastically deemed successful by military officers – are annual endeavors. Both highlight the professionalism, reliability and diverse skills of SIU members. My hat is off to our Seafaring brothers and sisters who helped make it happen.


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!
By now you all know that my favorite four-letter word is j-o-b-s. On that front, we got some great news last month when the Maritime Administration announced that operating agreements for eight fast sealift ships and two telemetry vessels had been awarded to SIU-contracted companies.


Whether we’re gaining new work or maintaining existing jobs, contract awards like these cannot be taken for granted. Far from it, in fact.


When the government entrusts SIU-contracted companies with their vessels, it absolutely reflects on the outstanding work of our rank-and-file members. This is a tremendous victory for our union and for Keystone, Interocean American Shipping and Ocean Shipholdings, and I congratulate all concerned.

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