Mariners 'More Critical Than Ever' for U.S.

June 2011

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A skilled U.S. Merchant Marine and strong U.S. shipbuilding industry are critical to America’s national and economic security, declared the Navy League of the United States in its recently released 2011-12 policy statement. The 32-page document credited the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime laws with playing a crucial role in today’s “irregular warfare environment.”

Released in late April and titled “Internationally Engaged: Ensuring Freedom of the Seas,” the policy statement said of the U.S. Merchant Marine, “Skilled mariners are more critical than ever to ensuring our ability to sustain U.S. national and global security interests. Ninety-five percent of the equipment and supplies required to deploy the U.S. armed forces is moved by sea…. The shipping capabilities of the Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force and the DoD’s Military Sealift Command are sized to support routine and some surge logistics and specialized mission requirements. This critical capability must be maintained by ensuring an active commercial U.S.-flag Merchant Marine to support efficient and cost-effective movement of DoD cargo.”

The report added that America’s ability to access a “maritime capability of ships and seafarers is essential to our national and economic security…. Without these commercial capabilities, the U.S. government would be required to provide significantly more funds to build a replacement fleet and infrastructure while losing the pool of highly qualified mariners needed to sail these vessels.”

The Navy League also emphasized the critical importance of a strong American shipyard capacity. Citing the benefits of Navy, Coast Guard and commercial shipbuilding, the League said, “It is essential that this nation have a policy at the highest levels of government to support and sustain an adequate industrial base capable of providing and supporting a strong Navy and maritime commerce.”

The report said the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime laws boost security by adding a sealift capacity as well as an expanded pool of trained and experienced mariners to crew U.S. government-owned sealift assets. These laws also help to sustain the U.S. shipbuilding and repair industrial base that is vital to the U.S. Navy.

An industry spokesman commended the report and added that America’s domestic fleet provided half of the mariners needed to crew U.S. government-owned sealift vessels activated from reserve status to support military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan “and we need to be certain the United States can continue to sustain this essential capacity.”

The Navy League of the United States was founded in 1902 with the encouragement of President Theodore Roosevelt and has grown to become the foremost citizens’ organization to serve, support and stand with all the U.S. sea services – the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and U.S.-flag Merchant Marine. More than 50,000 members focus on two main initiatives. First, the Navy League’s public education efforts are designed to inform the nation, and its political leaders, of the vital importance to the country of comprehensive and fully prepared sea services.  Second, the Navy League, primarily through its councils, provides support for active duty sea service personnel and their families.

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