SIU President Michael Sacco discusses efforts to develop a national maritime strategy, and the overall strong start for the industry in the New Year
Although our work is never finished, the spending bill passed last month by Congress and signed by the president is good news for the U.S. Merchant Marine. It includes full funding for the U.S. Maritime Security Program (MSP), supports the Food for Peace program, and requires our government, working with the Defense Department, to develop “a national sealift strategy that ensures the long-term viability of the U.S. Merchant Marine.”
Collectively, our industry took a potentially important step toward securing such a strategy last month during a three-day meeting hosted by the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD). While sealift capability wasn’t the only topic, it was an important one, as noted by speakers from Congress, the administration and the military.
The head of MARAD described that symposium as a first step toward developing and finalizing a national maritime strategy. Understandably, the event wasn’t perfect, but MARAD deserves credit for being inclusive and bringing together people from different segments of the industry to voice their positions. In particular, I agree with the repeatedly stated sentiment that regardless of what our individual interests are, our best chance for success by far will be to work together as much as possible.
No matter what happens moving forward, the SIU will not be shy or slow about standing up for our members’ jobs. The best part about that practice is that I know it’s not just good for us – our work is important to America’s national and economic security. Our record of delivering the goods for 75 years is rock-solid.
Not all of the recent positive news was confined to the nation’s capital. In Mobile, Ala., progress continued in the Navy’s joint high-speed vessel (JHSV) program, signaling new jobs for members of the SIU Government Services Division. One ship was christened, another completed acceptance trials, and another (the first in the program) got its initial deployment orders.
Sea trials also were under way for the second vessel in the Navy’s mobile landing platform (MLP) new-build program, the USNS John Glenn. Those prepositioning ships, being constructed in San Diego, also mean more SIU jobs and boost U.S. sealift capability. Operated by Ocean Ships Inc., the John Glenn is slated for delivery in March.
In the northeast, Aker Philadelphia Shipyard began production on a tanker that’s part of a joint venture with Seafarers-contracted Crowley, while New Jersey-based NY Waterway announced plans to build two new Seafarers-crewed ferry boats for its popular service.
Speaking of NY Waterway, you may have seen media coverage in January of the fifth anniversary of the event known as the Miracle on the Hudson. Captain Sully and the airline crew (all union members, by the way) weren’t the only heroes from US Airways Flight 1549, which crash landed in the Hudson River. SIU members from NY Waterway boats rescued them and most of the passengers (the rest also were brought to safety by others on the scene). All 155 people from the airplane survived, and most were uninjured.
While the focus of the anniversary coverage remained where it belonged – on the survivors – it was fitting that the rescuers also were acknowledged in some of the features.
Along those lines, as the SIU-crewed Cape Ray recently geared up for an important, challenging mission assisting in the disposal of chemical weapons overseas, I appreciated the fact that crew members were recognized and the SIU was mentioned by name at the government-run news conference next to the ship in Norfolk, Va. The mission is another in a long, long line of examples of SIU members stepping up as America’s fourth arm of defense. (Not only are union members crewing the ship, union members from the Machinists are sailing on it and will be handling the weapons.)
Overall, we are off to a strong start in 2014, and with your ongoing support we will continue working hard to build on every success.