Two SIU-affiliated groups recently told U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg that the American maritime industry is providing certainty to American customers and consumers, undeterred by supply chain disruptions and congestion impacting global shipping and major international U.S. ports, particularly on the West Coast.
Both the American Maritime Partnership (AMP) and USA Maritime were responding to government requests for comments, issued in late September and mid-October, respectively. AMP underscored the continued reliability of America’s domestic maritime services despite the current supply chain crisis.
“While the supply chain issues pertaining to our import-export trades persist, the men and women of America’s domestic maritime industry will continue to do our part to deliver for Americans,” said AMP President Mike Roberts. “The current supply chain problems highlight once again the importance of maintaining a highly resilient and dedicated American supply chain for serving customers in our domestic markets.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and foreign shipping supply chain crisis, American maritime has provided steady and reliable transportation service for Americans across the United States, including the non-contiguous areas of Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and Alaska. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, more than 500 trans-Pacific sailings were cancelled, or “blanked” by international carriers. On the other hand, few if any domestic voyages have been blanked by any Jones Act carrier during the same time period. The ability to continue this uninterrupted service during a crisis is due in part to the Jones Act, the fundamental law of the maritime industry.
The USA Maritime comments were issued “to shed light on the critical need to protect, preserve, and grow our maritime workforce, specifically our mariners, for all Department of Defense cargo needs,” the coalition said in a statement issued by its chairman, C. James Patti.
After reviewing a national security directive that spells out the ongoing need for strong sealift capability, Patti quoted several prominent U.S. military leaders past and present who have urgent called for maritime industry revitalization.
He continued, “Without the capability provided by the U.S.-flag international fleet and its civilian American mariner workforce, the Department of Defense would be forced to either dedicate its resources to replicate, at significant cost to the American taxpayer, the commercial sealift readiness capability provided by our industry or to entrust the security of our nation and the safety and supply of American troops to foreign flag-of-convenience vessels crewed by foreign nationals who may not support U.S. defense operations. To do so would be to jeopardize the lives of American servicewomen and men who will no longer be guaranteed the supplies and equipment they need to do their job in support of our country.”
He described a “dangerous decline in the American maritime manpower pool (that) must be reversed as we critically re-examine our national security supply chain. The Administration must focus on ways to stop the further loss of U.S.-flag vessels and the resultant outsourcing of American maritime jobs, and actively work to increase the number of vessels operating under the U.S. flag in order to create and support more maritime job opportunities for Americans. It is imperative to ensure that our country has the U.S.-flag commercial sealift capability and trained American mariners needed to support the Department of Defense throughout its supply chain. To this end, the Administration should invest in the U.S.-flag merchant marine as a critical component of our nation’s national security supply chain.”
The USA Maritime statement then spells out the value of laws and programs including cargo preference and the Maritime Security Program.
“In addition, to further halt and reverse the downward trend in the number of vessels operating under the U.S.-flag and the outsourcing of American maritime jobs we urge the Administration to consider strong, positive and innovative actions to develop and implement meaningful and effective programs and policies that will increase the number of commercially viable U.S.-flag vessels, increase the number of American maritime jobs, and increase the amount of America’s foreign trade carried aboard U.S.-flag ships,” Patti wrote. “To protect our nation’s supply chain, such initiatives should include the utilization of Federal tax law to incentivize shippers to utilize U.S.-flag vessels for a greater portion of commercial cargoes; tax and economic policies that encourage rather than discourage investment in the U.S.-flag shipping industry; the negotiation of bilateral shipping and cargo sharing agreements with our trading partners; and policies that include a greater reliance on U.S.-flag vessels as a means to achieve energy efficiency and a cleaner environment. In so doing, we can better guarantee that the United States will have the U.S.-flag ships and American mariners it needs to provide the assured logistics the Department of Defense requires.”