SIU to Promote Mariner Interests at MARAD Strategy Symposium

 

December 2013

 

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The SIU and its allies will play an active role when Washington lawmakers and industry officials gather in January to discuss the formulation of a national maritime strategy.

 

Organized by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) to “gather ideas for improving the nation’s cargo opportunities and sealift capability while ensuring future sustainability,” the National Maritime Strategy Symposium will take place Jan. 14-16 at the Department of Transportation headquarters. The meeting is part of a longstanding effort in Washington to formulate a comprehensive maritime strategy that ensures the nation’s economic and national security remain intact.

 

The SIU and maritime-friendly members of Congress have repeatedly called for such a strategy, arguing its absence creates problems for the nation. In a recent speech to the SIU-affiliated Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO (MTD), House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), said a national maritime strategy could help prevent the unwarranted attacks on food aid and cargo preference programs that have recently emanated from Washington.

 

“There is no cohesive strategy to bring together the merchant mariners, the military fleet, and our objectives throughout the world when it comes to either foreign policy or military matters,” Hunter said. “When it comes to things like food aid and tying that in, we have to make sure that we have enough ships to carry our cargo for our military.”

 

Hunter expanded on that sentiment during an October interview with The Maritime Executive, adding that a national maritime strategy should also include legislation that allows different government agencies the ability to enforce cargo preference laws that promote the best interest of the maritime community.

 

“That’s how it has to be done because you have to demonstrate the value cargo preference brings and why you should use American- flag ships to transport taxpayer-bought goods,” Hunter said. “So that has to be a law.”

 

Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), who serves as ranking member on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee, has also repeatedly called for a national maritime strategy. Like Hunter, he said such a strategy was essential to the nation’s overall wellbeing.

 

“There is no coordinated policy,” Garamendi told the MTD. “And we must have it.”

 

In an interview of his own with The Maritime Executive, Garamendi said the national maritime strategy must include protections for and expansions of the Jones Act and cargo preference laws – two things that ensure the nation has a fleet of merchant ships and well-trained merchant mariners.

 

“I think for economic security and national security we have to be a nation that owns and operates a significant merchant marine fleet,” Garamendi said. “We cannot depend upon other nations to meet our needs when there is a crisis or to provide the jobs that Americans need.”

 

He added the nation needs to ensure its robust maritime industry will also play a role in international trade, including the potential export of U.S.-produced liquid natural gas (LNG).

 

“When LNG comes along it should be on American-made ships with American crews. So if we are going to export LNG … it should be on American ships.” Garamendi said. “There is some amount that will be shipped domestically, say from Texas to Boston. That’s intercoastal. That’s American.”

 

And when it comes to formulating that national maritime strategy, both congressmen said they supported having it done in the open and with the help of the SIU and others from the maritime industry.

 

“We’re not going to come up with this strategy in a dark room somewhere,” Hunter told the MTD. “We’re going to come up with this strategy with you.”

 

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