In a flurry of recent communications, legislators from both sides of the aisle as well as a cabinet leader left no doubt about their strong support of the American maritime industry, including the U.S. Merchant Marine.
Those communications included op-eds, press conferences, news releases and speeches from senators, congressional representatives and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. Many of the remarks focused on the Jones Act, a vital maritime law that pumps billions of dollars into the U.S. economy while helping sustain nearly 500,000 American jobs.
In addition to Foxx, those stepping up and reaffirming their backing of the industry included Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Sen. David Vitter (R-La.), Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Ala.), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Rep. Steve Palazzo (R-Miss.), Rep. Colleen Hanabusa (D-Hawaii), and Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.).
‘On the Record’
Foxx addressed the annual convention of the national trade association American Waterways Operators (AWO) on April 3 in Washington, D.C.
He wasted no time reiterating President Obama’s and his support of the Jones Act, which requires that cargo moving from one domestic port to another be carried on ships that are crewed, flagged, built and owned American.
“My boss is on the record supporting the Jones Act and so am I,” Foxx told the convention attendees. “I will do everything in my power to defend the Jones Act.”
Louisiana is Tops
Less than a week later, Louisiana legislators and officials from U.S. maritime coalitions conducted a press conference in the Senate where they highlighted data showing that Louisiana ranks first in the nation in economic impact from America’s domestic maritime industry.
A study by Pricewaterhouse-Coopers (PwC) shows the state’s 54,850 maritime jobs contribute more than $11.3 billion annually into the Louisiana economy. The same study concludes Louisiana ranks first in the country in maritime jobs per capita and third in the nation in shipbuilding.
“Maritime is one of the largest industries in Louisiana, behind oil and gas and agriculture. But we wouldn’t be standing here today to tout this economic prowess of the maritime industry in Louisiana if it weren’t for the Jones Act,” Landrieu said. “The Jones Act is a jobs act – pure and simple. I will continue to do all that I can to ensure the Jones Act is properly enforced and Louisiana maritime jobs are protected.”
“Louisiana’s maritime jobs aren’t just important to our state’s economy – they play an incredibly vital role in our national economy,” Vitter said. “Our position in the maritime industry makes Louisiana a true point of economic strength. I support the Jones Act because it protects those jobs here in Louisiana, as well as our national security.”
“The American maritime industry is leading an economic recovery and investing in America’s waterways infrastructure,” said Scalise. “Waterborne commerce and our nation’s maritime base are vital to America’s economy, security and quality of life. I’m proud to stand in support of the Jones Act, which is critical to our national security and a public policy success story.”
“Louisiana shipyards build every kind of seagoing vessel from giant cryogenic ships used to transport liquefied natural gas to some of the largest offshore oil and gas exploration rigs in the world,” said Boustany. “Louisiana also builds merchant vessels, Coast Guard cutters, barges, tugs, supply boats, fishing vessels, pleasure craft and river patrol boats. The shipbuilding industry provides stability throughout the state, in the form of jobs, development, investment, and community support. I’ll continue to support the Jones Act and stand with my congressional colleagues, determined to protect and develop the domestic maritime industry.”
“The maritime industry is a cornerstone of the American economy, and the Jones Act is essential in sustaining that vitality,” Richmond said. “(A total of) 478,440 jobs across the country and 54,850 in Louisiana are a direct result of the maritime industry, and the Jones Act ensures that these jobs remain American jobs. I am a strong supporter of maritime commerce and will continue to advocate for an equal playing field in the industry so that it has the best opportunity to thrive here at home.”
‘Vital to Our Nation’
In an op-ed picked up by many news outlets in late March, Hunter and Scalise wrote in part, “Those searching for signs of hope in the U.S. economy need look no further than an industry too often taken for granted — the American maritime industry. In the midst of a renaissance that is creating jobs and leading an American economic recovery, the men and women who work on U.S. vessels and in U.S. shipyards collectively contribute billions to our national economy….
“American companies and workers are applying American ingenuity — and investing billions of dollars — to meet the nation’s transportation needs. Whether through new vessel construction, innovative technology or rigorous safety training, at a time when other industries are suffering from uncertainty, the domestic maritime industry is investing in its future and safeguarding its resilience. All Americans will reap the benefits.
“This growth would not be possible without the Merchant Marine Act passed by Congress in 1920, commonly referred to as the Jones Act,” they continued.
They also pointed to the national security benefits of the Jones Act, noting that without the law, “vessels and crews from foreign nations could move freely on U.S. waters, creating a more porous border, increasing possible security threats and introducing vessels and mariners who do not adhere to U.S. standards into the bloodstream of our nation. We are blessed to have fellow Americans operating U.S. vessels between our ports and on our waterways. Our mariners are best in class in their training, safety and commitment to this great land. Waterborne commerce and our nation’s maritime base are vital to our nation’s economy, security and quality of life.”
Safety and Security
Hunter also co-signed an April 1 letter with Palazzo, Hanabusa, Larsen and Garamendi to President Obama, urging him to honor commitments to the U.S. maritime industry when considering trade agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the TransAtlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
In part, the letter reads, “We have built a maritime industry that not only focuses on efficiency, but also places the utmost importance on the safety and security of our country. Today, the United States continues to rely upon the commercial U.S.-flag ships, American shipyards and American Merchant Mariners for its military sealift strategy. Current trade agreements protect the United States’ rights to maintain and promote a U.S. maritime industry. Future trade agreements must do the same.”
Delivering the Goods
In an April 4 post on his website, Byrne described the Jones Act as “vitally important to our national security, which is why every modern administration has supported it. American shipyards, vessels and sailors provide for secure domestic commerce on our waterways and provide our Navy with a reserve component in times of war. During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom (2002-2008), U.S.-flag commercial vessels, including ships drawn from the domestic trades, transported 57 percent of all military cargoes moved to Afghanistan and Iraq. As important, the American domestic fleet also provided fully half of the mariners used to crew U.S. government-owned sealift vessels activated from reserve status, which carried an additional 40 percent of the total cargoes delivered.
Use U.S.-Flag Ships, Crews
Garamendi penned an opinion piece posted on CNN’s website in late March. He asserted that the crisis in Crimea, “though potentially destabilizing to the global economy, may present a silver lining to the U.S. economy: an opportunity to reinvigorate the American shipbuilding industry and U.S. Merchant Marine. Even though Russia supplies 30 percent of Europe’s natural gas, President Vladimir Putin’s territorial aggression is causing Europe to look elsewhere for its energy needs.
“The U.S. should be prudent in exporting this natural resource, which has led to resurgence in domestic manufacturing, but I believe that the liquefied natural gas we do send overseas should be shipped on U.S.-flagged tankers and crewed by U.S. mariners,” Garamendi continued. “I am pursuing this policy, as the ranking member of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, because it will boost the domestic maritime industry and strengthen our national defense and economic security.”