Great Opportunities Ahead
Even though the early parts of 2021 feel suspiciously like 2020 in some ways, I am extremely optimistic about what the new year holds for our industry. One reason for that outlook: The pro-maritime legislation enacted late last year gives us plenty of momentum and great opportunities for the future.
One of the most significant components of the Defense bill establishes a Tanker Security Program, along the lines of the Maritime Security Program (which was voted into law in 1996). While these are not the best days for the tanker industry, the longer-term picture with this new plan is favorable and important. U.S. military leaders have said they want dozens of tankers available in times of crisis. The Tanker Security Program starts building the foundation.
As reported elsewhere in this edition and at last month’s membership meetings, other legislative wins include solidifying the Jones Act’s application to wind farms, strictly enforcing cargo preference laws, and bolstering the Maritime Security Program.
The pro-maritime, pro-labor Biden administration and continued bipartisan support in Congress will also help ensure that we’re able to keep the U.S. Merchant Marine on everyone’s radar. And on that note, we had already begun meeting (virtually, in most cases) with new legislators and longtime supporters even before Inauguration Day, in order to either educate people about maritime or simply to solidify goals for the industry.
We take nothing for granted and will continue working hard to help ensure your job security. But I’ve never felt better about the prospects for the U.S. Merchant Marine than I do now.
As of this writing in mid-January, we as a nation are still working on implementing comprehensive strategies for administering vaccines for COVID-19. However, the SIU has teamed up with other maritime unions to push for prioritizing our respective rank-and-file members, in light of their proper classification as essential workers.
Logistically, I think there are more questions than answers at this point, but the vaccines themselves have been deemed safe (by the time you read this, I hope to have had my first shot). However it plays out, I am asking all SIU members to have faith that your union will handle it the right way. We will continue doing what we’ve done since the start of the pandemic, and that is putting your safety and that of your families and shipmates at the top of the list. Nothing is more important, and we’ll behave accordingly.
Meanwhile, please keep your guard up and remain safe. There is finally daylight on the horizon, but there also have been spikes around the world, and that includes an uptick in positive cases among our membership. We’ve come too far to slack off. Follow the safety protocols, and keep the faith that we’ll get through it together.
I would be remiss in not extending another heartfelt “thank you” to outgoing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao and outgoing Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby, two of our industry’s all-time greatest champions who also happened to be true friends of the SIU. They left the prior administration as our nation was gripped by rioting, impeachment and the understandable emotions associated with those developments. There’s not enough space to do justice to what Secretary Chao and Admiral Buzby have meant to the U.S. Merchant Marine, so I’ll simply thank them and wish them well in whatever comes next.
Last but not least, I also thank our membership for giving me another term as your president. Our continuity of leadership has been vital to the SIU’s success, and I want you to know that we don’t have any passengers on our executive board or elsewhere in our ranks. Our union weathers every storm and emerges stronger because we pour everything we’ve got into the job. That will never change, and that’s why I again look forward to even more progress.