While it’s no secret that the U.S. Merchant Marine fleet has ample room for growth, the past decade certainly featured plentiful additions for the SIU. A review of the past 10 years shows that rarely a single month passed without a new-tonnage announcement or an actual delivery. No fewer than 110 additions were made that directly involved SIU crews, whether in the deep sea, Great Lakes or inland fleets or in the SIU Government Services Division. In some cases, the vessels were new builds, while in other instances they were flag-ins. Similarly, some of the additions were outright gains; others were replacement tonnage. But they all added up to ongoing and future employment opportunities for the SIU.
At least 29 SIU-crewed tankers were gained, along with at least 11 roll-on/roll-off vessels (RO/RO), nine articulated tug-barge units (ATB), and eight dry cargo/ammunition ships (abbreviated as T-AKE). The union also provided crews for new passenger ferries, tugboats, heavy-lift vessels, container ships, combination roll-on/roll-off – container ships (ConRos), joint high-speed vessels and more. Some of the new builds are powered by liquified natural gas (LNG), and many others are equipped for easy conversion to such propulsion.
For example, the new SIU-contracted tankers included (but weren’t necessarily limited to) the Evergreen State, Empire State, Overseas Martinez, Overseas Anacortes, Overseas Chinook, Overseas Tampa, American Phoenix, Pennsylvania, Florida, Eagle Ford, Ohio, Lone Star State, Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Bay State, Independence, Constitution, Garden State, Magnolia State, American Endurance, SLNC Goodwill, Palmetto State, American Freedom, American Pride, American Liberty, Oregon, Washington and California.
The new or newly acquired RO/ROs included the Endurance, Alliance Charleston, Alliance Beaumont, Liberty Promise, Liberty, Liberty Passion, Liberty Peace, ARC Integrity, ARC Independence, ARC Resolve and Patriot.
SIU CIVMARS welcomed the T-AKE ships USNS Charles Drew, USNS Matthew Perry, USNS Washington Chambers, USNS Roy Wheat, USNS Fred Stockham, USNS William McLean, USNS Cesar Chavez and USNS Medgar Evers.
Among the new ATBs were the Achievement/ 650-8, Innovation/650-9, Vision/350, Freedom/ EMI-2400, Legacy/750-1, Ken Boothe Sr., Legend, Liberty/750-3, and Vision/650-10.
Heavy-lift and general cargo ship additions included the Ocean Crescent, BBC Houston, Maersk Illinois, Maersk Texas, Ocean Grand, M/V Corsica, Ocean Glory, MV Carat, Ocean Giant, BBC Seattle and SLNC York.
The list of new containerships included the Rio Grande Express, Maersk Chicago, Isla Bella, Perla del Caribe, Daniel K. Inouye, Kamokuiki, Kaimana Hila, and MV Capt. David I. Lyon, while the new ConRos included the Marjorie C, Lurline, El Coqui and Taino.
The USNS Montford Point and USNS John Glenn kicked off a new class of military support ships known as expeditionary transfer docks (they originally were named mobile landing platforms). Though not identical, new ships that are part of that same class include the USNS Williams and USNS Puller (the latter of which was eventually commissioned by the Navy).
Other gains included the joint high-speed vessels/ expeditionary fast transports USNS Spearhead, USNS Millinocket, USNS Trenton, USNS Brunswick, USNS Burlington, USNS Puerto Rico, USNS Carson City, USNS Yuma, USNS Guam and USNS Newport; the tugboats J.K. McLean, Handy-Three, Ocean Wave, Ocean Wind, MV Ahbra Franco, MV Robert Franco, Chloe K, Ocean Sky, Ocean Sun, Cleveland and Michigan; the NOAA vessel Ferdinand Hassler; several passenger ferries; and the unique USNS Wheeler, an offshore petroleum distribution system.
SIU President Michael Sacco, in a message to Seafarers, noted, “When we crew up new vessels, it’s a credit to every rank-and-file member. Our companies wouldn’t build or flag-in new ships and tugs and passenger ferries if they didn’t have confidence in you.”
Moreover, he has pointed out that without ongoing support for the Jones Act, cargo preference laws and the Maritime Security Program, American-flag ships would quickly all but disappear. That’s why the SIU is very politically active.
“I’m grateful that the maritime industry in general and the SIU in particular can count many friends on both sides of the aisle, but between the regular turnover in Congress and the ongoing attacks on our industry, we can never let up when it comes to promoting the U.S. Merchant Marine,” Sacco stated. “You all know we work in a heavily regulated industry, and that’s precisely why we never stop speaking up for Seafarers and for the laws and programs that keep Old Glory flying on the rivers, coasts and high seas. Grassroots action is a foundation of every new-tonnage story we report.”