Category: Jones Act

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.

Erie Canal Revival?

Just today, I was commenting to a colleague at a conference in Norfolk, Virginia about commercial traffic on the Erie Canal.  Ironically, my comment was that commercial traffic was nigh near non-existent and that traffic consisted primarily of recreational or chartered canal boats.  Fortunately, Ryan Delaney of WRVO Public Media has set me straight.  His piece on increasing traffic along the Erie Canal – primarily Canadian grain imported through the port of Oswego, NY – was noted in the New York Times and The Maritime Executive.   See link below :

Barge Traffic Increases Along Erie Canal

We have commented on Erie Canal shipping previously, with the link below :

New York State Canals and Commercial Shipping

The increased use of a waterway such as the Erie Canal and connecting waterways is a sign that the fuel savings of shipping by water may finally be recognized.  With the U.S. highway infrastructure deteriorating and fewer federal dollars available for its repair, the more traffic we take off the highways, the longer they will last.  Hopefully, the public will take note of the ways in which this mode of shipping can benefit them aside from the novelty of seeing commercial traffic on the venerable Erie Canal.

New Day Dawning as Matsuda Departs

With former U.S. Maritime Administrator David Matsuda heading for the door, is there a new day dawning for shortsea shipping in the United States?  That light in the East might be the dawn of a new day for the U.S. maritime industry or it might be the final cataclysmic flash in the pan for this beleaguered industry. 

It was intimated by a U.S. Maritime Administration official not long ago that the lack of emphasis on the maritime industry and shortsea shipping originated not with the U.S. Maritime Administrator, nor with the Secretary of Transportation, but at the highest levels of the Obama administration.  As the House of Representatives convenes a special committee on intermodal transportation, perhaps there is an opportunity to finally move the America’s Marine Highway program forward.

Maritime Executive’s Tony Munoz recently opined that the U.S. could learn from the EU’s short sea policies.  The success of the European model in regards to job creation, economic value and environmental impact (or lack thereof) is enviable.  An interesting graphic on some of the successes of the EU Marco Polo Project here.

As gCaptain’s John Konrad put it, “…no one in shipping has ignored the problem.   What they have done is wasted millions on spreadsheets and PowerPoints to convince each other how much this will benefit shipping……our time needs to be spent outside official channels. Don’t write your congressmen about short sea shipping write Fox News about how frustrated you are sitting in I-95 traffic, and get your wife to write about how the rust on your bridge scares the s$%^ out of her every time she crosses it with the kids.”

These guys have some very valid points.  Perhaps there IS hope for America’s Marine Highway and the U.S. Merchant Marine…..if there is a Maritime Administrator from the maritime industry,

More information on the European Union’s maritime strategy here.

Interesting discussion on shortsea shipping on gCaptain here.