U.S. National Maritime Strategy Symposium: Cargo Opportunities and Sealift Capacity

The U.S. Maritime Administration wants our input!  From the 14th – 16th of January, the National Maritime Strategy Symposium will be held in Washington D.C.  For more information visit http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=MARAD-2013-0101-0001.  Today, November 29th, is the last day to submit suggestions for discussion.   You’ll find my suggestions below.  Be there, follow online or contact your representatives to be part of the process.

Docket ID : MARAD 2013-0101
Agency : Maritime Administration
Parent Agency : Department of Transportation

Suggested Topics of discussion :

1. Educate the general public and politicians about the U.S. merchant marine, its wide spread effect on the U.S. economy and the number of jobs directly and indirectly created by it. Compare and contrast the existing jobs associated with U.S.-flagged foreign and domestic shipping with ones that might be created with an effective maritime strategy. Particular attention should be paid to the U.S. merchant marine’s role in the overall logistics industry.
a. Use of social media – note effective use by companies such as Maersk Lines Limited
b. Direct advertising
c. Outreach to elementary and high schools – possibly best done by merchant mariners themselves.
d. Increased focus on apprentice-style programs – Vigor Industrial’s shipbuilding training and MITAGS Workboat program are two excellent examples.
The maritime industry is an economic powerhouse. Implementing a national maritime strategy and promoting growth within the maritime industry will have a positive impact on the country. Unfortunately, until we get the general public, politicians and media to understand that, we’re “only preaching to the choir.” Right now, the media (in general) have branded us a pet project of special interests – we need to change that perception and show the country the tangible benefits.

2. Implement the America’s Marine Highways programs. Increased short-sea shipping on all 4 of the United States’ coastlines and inland river systems can :

a. Take trucks off the roads, helping to reduce congestion, increase fuel economy and alleviate the current truck driver shortage.
b. Increase the job-base for merchant mariners
c. Increase job orders at U.S. shipyards for Jones Act vessels

In order to introduce short-sea shipping, we must have realistic “shovel-ready” projects. One point to emphasize to both the general public and politicians is that providing grants for short-sea shipping projects is a job-multiplier. Not only do we have the jobs directly funded by such a grant, we have the long term jobs created once the short-sea system is up and running.

While we have the TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) grants available, a large portion of them are used for road projects and revitalizing urban areas. Shifting future TIGER grants to a modal-change emphasis (i.e. taking trucks off the road) or creating a new system of grants to do this would create an atmosphere where short-sea shipping projects could get off the ground. The European Union’s Marco Polo program is a good example, with demonstrable successes, that we could emulate.

3. Increased focus on Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) activities. Implement requirements to use U.S.-flag vessels and U.S. merchant mariners for activities such as wind-farm construction and maintenance.

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