Global tensions were on the rise last month in the aftermath of attacks on two foreign-flag tankers in the Gulf of Oman. While I’m thankful the mid-June incidents, which happened in international waters, did not result in any serious injuries to the crew members, they definitely underscored the ongoing need for a strong U.S. Merchant Marine.
If that sounds like an overstatement, here’s what the U.S. Central Command stated in response to the attacks: “The U.S. and our partners in the region will take all necessary measures to defend ourselves and our interests. Today’s attacks are a clear threat to international freedom of navigation and freedom of commerce.”
History has taught us that it’s not a question of “if” the next conflict will occur, but when and where. That’s just reality. And that’s a big reason why our nation absolutely must be able to carry the fight and deliver the goods for our men and women in uniform. It’s usually a surprise to people who aren’t familiar with our industry when they learn that the U.S. Merchant Marine delivered more than 90 percent of the materiel needed by our troops in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. But, as Seafarers know, American citizen mariners have answered the call dating back to the very earliest days of our country.
The Central Command added, “The United States has no interest in engaging in a new conflict in the Middle East. However, we will defend our interests.”
It goes without saying that my sincere hope is that these two attacks were isolated mistakes that won’t be repeated.
And it also goes without saying that if the balloon goes up, the SIU will answer the call. We are proud to serve as America’s fourth arm of defense. That’s a role we’ve upheld – without exception – every time we’ve been needed since our founding in 1938.
Not all of the recent news was stressful. A few days after the aforementioned incidents, the SIU helped welcome a new Matson ship in San Diego that’ll sail in the Jones Act trade. This union-built beauty, the Lurline, means ongoing job security for SIU members. Like other Jones Act ships, it boosts America’s national, economic and homeland security. Like many other new U.S.-built vessels, it has LNG-capable engines.
Congratulations to Matson and to the union workers and executives at General Dynamics NASSCO in San Diego on the christening and launch. It’s a great milestone and a tribute to our industry’s shared commitment to produce state-of-the-art vessels that carry the world’s best-trained crews.
Be sure to check out our coverage of the new “American Maritime Heroes” campaign that recently was launched by the major coalition American Maritime Partnership (AMP). The first two honorees – U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao and, collectively, the U.S. Merchant Marine of World War II – are nothing short of fantastic, in my estimation.
Secretary Chao is on a short list of greatest advocates our industry has ever known. That’s why I was incredulous when she recently came under attack by some in the press for having the audacity to be part of a politically active family. My bottom line is that Secretary Chao’s pro-maritime record speaks for itself, and that’s including crucial behind-the-scenes work for which she won’t take credit.
As for our mariners from The Greatest Generation, their service and sacrifice remain unsurpassed in our industry. One of our late pensioners who sailed during the war managed to put a humorous spin on it. He’d often say, “Just remember, if it weren’t for us, we’d all be speaking German.”
That always cracked me up but the truth in it is noteworthy. A hearty tip of the SIU white cap to Secretary Chao and to the U.S. Merchant Marine of World War II!