Standing up for Cargo Preference
The American maritime industry’s constant battle to uphold the Jones Act is vital, but it’s definitely not the only area in which we stand up for the U.S. Merchant Marine.
Like the Jones Act and the U.S. Maritime Security Program, cargo preference laws are another staple of U.S.-flag shipping. With that in mind, the coalition USA Maritime (the SIU is an affiliate) in late October wrote to Congress and urged legislators to help ensure full enforcement. Specifically, USA Maritime contacted leaders of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and asked them to back a section of the House-passed Coast Guard Authorization Act that calls for an independent audit of cargo preference enforcement.
Such an audit is in order. USA Maritime suggested there are legitimate questions about whether some federal agencies may be skirting the law and using foreign-flag ships instead of American-flag vessels for preference cargoes. The coalition also underscored the fact that enforcing cargo preference laws is crucial for “the national defense capability provided by a strong and active U.S.-flag Merchant Marine.”
For those who may be new to our industry, cargo preference requires shippers to use U.S.-flag vessels to transport certain government- impelled, ocean-borne cargoes. Most of the time when we talk about cargo preference, we mean the 1954 Food for Peace initiative, specifically governing the shipment of agricultural goods and government aid programs. However, it also includes the Military Cargo Preference Act of 1904, which dictates that 100 percent of military cargoes are shipped under the Stars and Stripes. And, it includes Public Resolution 17 (enacted in 1934), which requires all cargo generated by the U.S. Export-Import Bank be shipped via U.S.-flag vessels unless granted a waiver by the U.S. Maritime Administration.
Opponents (including enemies of American-flag shipping) of the programs, and those who truly do not understand the programs, have tried to turn them into cash giveaways, among other attacks. There is no doubt in my mind that such a move would harm not only the U.S. workforce, including our hard-working farmers, but also the intended recipients of the food.
The bottom line is that food aid is vital for our industry. It’s a main source of cargo for our fleet, and it’s a primary source of shipboard jobs, too. Without American mariners, we can’t defend America. That’s reason enough to not only enforce but also boost cargo preference.
For this month, I turn to the U.S. Maritime Administration for the last word on the subject. The agency points out: “Cargo Preference provides another critical benefit: a revenue base that will retain and encourage a privately owned and operated U.S.-flag Merchant Marine, which itself provides 1) essential sealift capability in wartime or other national emergencies, 2) a stream of skilled seafarers and 3) protection against total foreign entities attempting to dominate US. waterborne commerce.”
The winter holidays are still on the horizon as of this writing, but this is the time to extend my heartfelt best wishes to the entire SIU family for a safe and happy season. To our active members and retirees and your families, and to all of our staff and officials, here’s to an enjoyable time filled with whatever makes the holidays most gratifying for you.
As usual, I also offer a respectful “season’s greetings” to our men and women in uniform and to my fellow military veterans. The SIU appreciates your service and we are proud to support you as America’s fourth arm of defense. You can count on us in the New Year and for every year that follows!