The following news release was issued by the Office of Representative John Garamendi (D-California) on October 3.
Garamendi Introduces Rebuilding the United States-Flag International Fleet Act
Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA03) introduced the bipartisan “Rebuilding the United States-Flag International Fleet Act” (H.R.9102), with Congressmen Bob Gibbs (R-OH07) and Alan S. Lowenthal (D-CA47), which would strengthen federal cargo preference laws to reverse the continued decline of U.S.-flagged commercial vessels delivering cargo to foreign ports. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the number of ocean-going U.S.-flagged vessels has declined more than 75 percent since 1985, following the 1982 treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Congressman Garamendi is chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness and a senior member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He served as the top Democrat on the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation from 2013 to 2018. Congressman Gibbs currently serves as the top Republican on the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation.
“For too long, Congress and both Democratic and Republican presidents have allowed the commercial fleet of U.S.-flagged, ocean-going vessels to dwindle. The global supply chain crunch during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion and blockade of Ukraine, and the People’s Republic of China’s island building in the South China Sea and saber-rattling in the Taiwan Strait have shown that the United States cannot remain reliant on foreign vessels flying flags of convenience,” said Congressman John Garamendi.
“My comprehensive, bipartisan legislation would help to recapitalize the U.S.-flag fleet of ocean-going, commercial vessels by guaranteeing government cargo during peacetime so that U.S.-flag vessels are available during wartime or emergencies. The United States has the world’s most capable Navy, and we need an equally impressive fleet of commercial cargo vessels crewed by American mariners,” concluded Congressman Garamendi.
The “Rebuilding the United States-Flag International Fleet Act” (H.R.9102) would:
- Restore requirement in place from 1985 to 2012 that at least 75% of gross tonnage of seaborne cargo for international food aid programs be carried on US-flagged vessels. Current law only requires 50% minimum gross tonnage.
- Restore requirement in place from 1985 to 2012 that the U.S. Department of Transportation reimburse international food aid programs for any cost premium under the US-flagged vessel cargo preference, to protect the overall budget for food aid exports from increased shipping costs.
- Reaffirm the Maritime Administration (MARAD) as the only federal agency able to waive the US-flag requirement for government cargo, in the rare instances when such commercial vessels are unavailable at fair and reasonable rates.
- Strengthen transparency and oversight by requiring public notice online of all waivers of the US-flag requirement and timely notification to Congress. Current law holds similar requirements for waiving the Jones Act.
- Allow vessels seeking federal cargo contracts to be re-flagged into the United States registry for less than 3 years provided they satisfy similar requirements as vessels enrolled in the existing Maritime Security Program.
- Clarify that the current US-flagged vessel requirement for international food aid applies to all agricultural products, not just commodity crops.
- Implement the reforms to cargo preference laws recommended by the Government Accountability Office’s report on “Actions Needed to Enhance Cargo Preference Oversight” published on September 12, 2022.
The full text of the “Rebuilding the United States-Flag International Fleet Act” is available here.
The following organizations endorse the “Rebuilding the United States-Flag International Fleet Act” (H.R.9102): Transportation Trades Department (TTD), AFL-CIO; Liberty Maritime, Seafarers International Union (AFL-CIO), Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association; International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P); Maritime Institute for Research and Industrial Development (MIRAID).
# # #