The SIU is fully backing new, bipartisan legislation aimed at boosting America’s maritime industry.
SIU Executive Vice President Augie Tellez spoke May 22 at a Capitol Hill press conference announcing the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act of 2018. Cosponsors U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (DCalifornia) and U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) kicked off the conference; other members of Congress also addressed the audience, as did industry and labor spokesmen.
Tellez noted that despite supportive comments from many sources leading up to National Maritime Day (observed each year on May 22), the far more important political action hasn’t matched the rhetoric.
“As foe and friend alike understand this and expand their maritime prowess, we languish on the vine, operating with an international fleet that’s been reduced to a number that’s nothing short of a disgrace,” Tellez said.
He also pointed out that the industry collectively was fighting against a newly hatched effort to kill America’s cargo preference laws. (The SIU and many allies prevailed in that legislative battle later in the month.)
“It gets even worse,” he continued. “We now have senior folks – civilian and in uniform – questioning whether our people will go into harm’s way. To those naysayers, I say look at the record. Read your history books. From the founding of this republic to Iraq and Afghanistan, and in every crisis and conflict in between, we have shown up. And whether or not we show up for the next one is not a question of our courage and will, but of yours. Does this country have the courage and will to maintain and support a viable merchant fleet that’s going to get the job done? All we need is the capacity and the tools, and we will get the job done. This legislation is a step in that direction.”
Tellez added that the new legislation “creates good-paying jobs – thousands of them, at sea and ashore.”
In announcing H.R. 5893, Garamendi, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, explained that the legislation seeks to rebuild America’s domestic shipbuilding and maritime industry by requiring a small percentage of exported crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) be transported on U.S.-built and U.S.-flagged vessels. The bill would require the construction of more than 50 ships and would create thousands of maritime jobs, both aboard ship and ashore.
Other speakers at the press conference included U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California), chairman of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee; U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D-New Jersey); U.S. Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-California); Rob Mullins of the Shipbuilders Council of America; Steelworkers official Robert LaVenture; Bob McCracken, an executive from the American Iron & Steel Institute; Alan Kaplan, national president of the Navy League of the United States; MEBA Secretary-Treasurer Bill Van Loo; and MM&P Vice President Klaus Luhta.
“Rebuilding America’s shipbuilding and mariner base is an idea that unites Democrats, Republicans, metallurgical trades, the business community, labor, and our armed forces,” said Garamendi. “These industries are not only vital to our economy – they’re vital to our country’s national security. Congress has neglected our maritime industry for too long, to the point that we’re now several dozen merchant ships and 1,800 mariners short of what’s needed to guarantee sufficient sealift support in times of crisis. This bill seeks to turn the ship around by taking advantage of America’s energy export boom to bring back American shipbuilding, shipyard, and mariner jobs rather than continuing to outsource them to countries like China. I believe this bill is the start of a long-term reinvestment in the idea of America as a maritime, seafaring nation.”
“The domestic maritime industry supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs and is critical to our military readiness and national security,” said Wicker. “This bill would strengthen our shipbuilding industry and would recognize the importance of having more Americanflagged ships to transport our growing exports of oil and natural gas. China, India, and other nations are investing heavily in their shipbuilding capacity. The United States must keep up.”
“We can have the best military equipment and trained warfighters in the world, but without the sealift capacity to get them to where they need to go, it doesn’t do much good,” said Hunter. “Today, the U.S. international fleet has fallen to about 80 ships from a high of more than 1,200 during World War II. Unless we reverse that trend, our nation will be forced to rely on foreign countries for force projection, a situation we cannot allow to happen. This legislation will strengthen America’s shipbuilding base by ensuring we have the necessary industrial infrastructure and skilled labor pool of welders, fitters and sailors needed to rapidly mobilize in times of conflict. This bill will have strong national security implications and I applaud its introduction.”
Kaplan stated, “American mariners and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base are a crucial part of our national security, delivering crucial armaments and supplies the warfighter needs on U.S.-built ships. This bill ensures there will be enough American mariners and U.S.-built ships in the future to support the needs of our men and women in uniform.”
U.S. Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Virginia), chairman and ranking member of the House Armed Services Seapower Committee, couldn’t attend the media event but submitted this written statement: “Continued Congressional support of a healthy commercial maritime industry and U.S. Merchant Marine is essential to domestic security. Despite the usage of heavy-lift aircraft, large oceangoing vessels remain crucial to military mobility in the 21st century. U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East and Afghanistan receive much of their supplies via U.S.-flag vessels because of their capacity and low cost. Bringing manufacturing and maritime jobs back home will not only help in the event of a disaster but will also show our domestic industrial base that we support them.”
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