The head of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) recently reiterated that the agency is constantly pushing to revitalize the U.S. Merchant Marine.
At a recent Navy League breakfast, Maritime Administrator RAdm. Mark Buzby (USN, Ret) spoke of the importance of the American maritime industry, in relation to both domestic security and the nation’s economy. He also identified MARAD’s top priorities.
Buzby said, “We are addressing the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) and ensuring that it is prepared to answer the call. That has been a struggle, with readiness of the 44-year-old fleet a day-to-day challenge given our budgetary constraints. I’m pleased that Congress has increasingly gotten it on their scope, and having TRANSCOM Commander General Steve Lyons testify that RRF recap is his number one priority is a huge deal. Long-term, we believe the Navy’s surge sealift recapitalization strategy, which includes a combination of targeted service life extensions, acquiring and converting used vessels, and building new sealift vessels in U.S. shipyards, will get us where we need to be.”
He continued, “I pledged myself to a vigorous defense of the Jones Act. There has been a lot of discussion about the Jones Act of late, much of it misinformed and some of it purposely misleading. We’ve turned back several serious challenges to this indispensable policy, but only a vigilant watch will protect this linchpin of American maritime policy from attack.”
A lifelong advocate of American mariners and a former commanding officer of the U.S. Military Sealift Command, Buzby said MARAD is working “across the board, from growing the U.S.-flag fleet and strengthening our ports to improving and modernizing maritime education and addressing the mariner shortage, to help ensure that America’s maritime community is ready to meet all challenges in an increasingly contentious and competitive world. That means not only addressing the needs for the RRF, but also supporting U.S.-flag commercial carriers so U.S.-flag ships are there for us to provide sustained sealift.”
He added, “The MSP (Maritime Security Program) stipend is a lifeline for those carriers who struggle to compete against foreign competitors who benefit from government subsidies and preferential tax policies.”
He then addressed the manpower shortage, saying, “Right now, we remain about 1,800 mariners short of what we need to crew government and commercial sealift ships to meet national security needs. Closing that gap demands that we grow the U.S.-flag fleet to ensure that qualified American mariners have places to ply their trade.
“We also recently announced nine new marine highway projects that will join previously designated projects in being eligible to apply for $7 million of marine highway grants this year,” he concluded. “Short sea shipping is an additional way that we can boost Jones Act shipping and support mariner jobs. There are some really innovative ideas emerging in the marine highways sector.”
The Navy League of the United States, founded in 1902 with the support of President Theodore Roosevelt, is a nonprofit civilian, educational and advocacy organization that supports America’s sea services: the Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard and U.S.-flag Merchant Marine. As part of its mission focus, the Navy League of the United States, according to its website, “Enhances the morale of sea service personnel and their families through national and council level programs, provides a powerful voice to educate the public and Congress on the importance of our sea services to our nation’s defense, well-being and economic prosperity and supports youth through programs, such as the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps, Junior ROTC and Young Marines, that expose young people to the values of our sea services.”