SIU officials and staff members were active in this year’s congressional “Sail-In,” a day-long event on Capitol Hill that emphasizes the importance of America’s maritime industry.
SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez, Vice President Contracts George Tricker and Vice President West Coast Nick Marrone each served separately on one of 24 meeting groups composed of representatives from throughout the industry. Those groups – totaling around 130 individuals – met with senators, congressional representatives and staff members from mid-morning to late afternoon May 7. There were 173 meetings, total, including 50 with senators and House members.
This was the fifth straight year of the Sail-In, organized by the U.S. Maritime Coalition, to which the SIU is affiliated. As in previous events, the meetings involved a mix of longtime industry supporters from both political parties as well as newer members of Congress who may not have been familiar with maritime. Also as in past years, central topics included the Maritime Security Program (MSP), the Jones Act, and cargo preference including Food for Peace.
Before participants scattered throughout the three House and three Senate office buildings, Acting Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen addressed them. He said the Maritime Administration fully supports the Sail-In, and added that it’s more important than ever to spread the word about the industry’s importance to U.S. national and economic security.
Mariners and the maritime community “have long been what I would call the unseen, silent servants of our economy,” he said. “Our nation, as we know, would not be the same without our maritime industry and our seafaring trade, and we need to let the American people know that. The U.S. Merchant Marine has been integral to every armed conflict since the American Revolution…. Our nation owes a great debt to the U.S. Merchant Marine.”
The Sail-In included participants from almost every segment of the American maritime industry engaged in the transport of waterborne cargo, including maritime labor, vessel operators, marine terminals, shipyards and more. Collectively, the domestic industry alone moves nearly 888 million tons of cargo every year and plays an important role in relieving congestion on the nation’s crowded roads and railways.
“This is an exciting time for American maritime. The industry is investing billions of dollars to meet the nation’s transportation needs; it is creating thousands of jobs for Americans; and it consistently works to bolster our national security at zero cost to the federal government,” said Thomas Allegretti, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership, another important coalition whose members include the SIU. “These Congressional meetings are an important opportunity for the maritime industry to join together and brief their elected officials on the many ways American maritime is making our nation safer, stronger and more secure.”
Captain Richard Phillips, whose rescue from Somali pirates was made into an Oscar-winning film starring Tom Hanks, also participated in this year’s Sail-In. He noted that the strength of America’s merchant marine comes in part from the Jones Act, which boosts our nation’s economy while also strengthening America’s national and homeland security.
“The nation’s merchant mariners are some of the most highly trained in the world and are prepared for any situation they may encounter,” Phillips said. “Most importantly, the men and women of American maritime are proud stewards of our nation’s waterways, because not only do they work in these communities, they also live in them.”
In related events, the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force presented its Great Lakes Legislator of the Year Award to Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) the same day as the Sail-In, while on May 8, the International Propeller Club of the Unites States presented the Maritime Industry Salute to Congress Award to U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.).