A longtime champion of the United States maritime industry has introduced legislation aimed at bolstering the American-flag fleet.
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-California) issued the following statement, which was published in the Congressional Record on March 29, 2023, upon his introduction of the Rebuilding the U.S.-Flag International Fleet Act:
I introduce the bipartisan “Rebuilding the United States- Flag International Fleet Act.” This comprehensive legislation would help to recapitalize the U.S.-flag international fleet of ocean-going, commercial vessels by guaranteeing government cargo during peacetime so that U.S.-flag vessels are available during wartime or emergencies.
The United States has the world’s most capable navy able to operate in all five oceans, and we need an equally impressive fleet of commercial cargo vessels crewed by American mariners. For too long, Congress and both Democratic and Republican presidents have allowed the commercial fleet of U.S.-flagged, ocean-going vessels to dwindle.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the number of oceangoing U.S.-flagged vessels has declined more than 75 percent since 1985, following the 1982 treaty called the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
The global supply chain crunch during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian invasion and blockade of Ukraine, and the People’s Republic of China’s island building in the South China Sea and saber-rattling in the Taiwan Strait have shown that the United States cannot remain reliant on foreign vessels flying flags of convenience.
The “Rebuilding the United States-Flag International Fleet Act” offers Congress the chance to enact the first comprehensive reform of cargo preference laws in decades. Our legislation incorporates recommendations for the Maritime Administration from the Government Accountability Office’s report published on September 14, 2022, entitled “Actions Needed to Enhance Cargo Preference Oversight.”
Mr. Speaker, I urge all members of the House to join me in cosponsoring this critical legislation to address this crisis facing the U.S.-flag international fleet.