U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao recently reiterated the department’s strong support of American maritime.
Speaking Oct. 8 at the National Defense Transportation Association’s fall meeting in St. Louis, Secretary Chao noted the importance of the Jones Act, the U.S. Maritime Security Program, the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) and U.S. Merchant Mariners. She also commended the work of SIU President Michael Sacco, who attended the meeting (Oct. 7-10).
Secretary Chao said in part: “The Maritime Security Program ensures that American-flagged vessels are available for service. All 60 Congressionally- funded operating agreements are in place. Planned vessel replacements through November should add 80,000 square feet of additional RO/RO capacity to the fleet. Congress is looking at potentially increasing the amount paid per ship, and establishing a sister program, called the Tanker Security Program, or TSP, that would involve 10 tankers.
“In addition,” she continued, “the Ready Reserve Force has 46 vessels that can be activated for use when needed. Turbo-activation drills were recently conducted to ensure rapid deployment. The RRF provides nearly 50 percent of government-owned surge sealift capability. But there are concerns. For starters, the average age of these vessels is 44.5 years. Long-term, 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, should address these challenges.”
She later turned to America’s freight cabotage law and stated, “Human capital is as important to a good transportation system as concrete and steel. A primary benefit of the Jones Act and other measures to maintain a U.S. Merchant Marine, is to ensure that the U.S. has skilled seafarers and Merchant mariners….”
A complete copy of Secretary Chao’s prepared remarks is available on the DOT website and is linked in an Oct. 9 news post on the SIU website.