CHAIRMAN DUNCAN HUNTER (R-CA)
SUBCOMMITTEE ON COAST GUARD AND MARITIME TRANSPORTATION
HEARING ON MARITIME TRANSPORTATION: THE ROLE OF U.S SHIPS AND MARINERS
MAY 21, 2013
(REMARKS AS PREPARED)
The Subcommittee is meeting to review the current state of the U.S. maritime sector and examine the importance of U.S.-flagged vessels and American mariners to our economy and national security.
The U.S. maritime industry currently employs more than 260,000 Americans providing nearly $29 billion in annual wages. There are more than 40,000 commercial vessels currently flying the American flag. The vast majority of these vessels are engaged in domestic commerce, moving over 100 million passengers and $400 billion worth of goods between ports in the U.S. on an annual basis. Each year, the U.S. maritime industry accounts for over $100 billion in economic output.
Beyond the important contributions to our economy, a healthy maritime industry is vital to our national security. Throughout our history, the Navy has relied on U.S.-flag commercial vessels crewed by American Merchant Mariners to carry troops, weapons, and supplies to the battlefield. During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, U.S.-flag commercial vessels transported 63 percent of all military cargos moved to Afghanistan and Iraq. Since we cannot rely on foreign vessels and crews to provide for our national security, it is critical that we maintain a robust fleet of U.S.-flagged vessels, a large cadre of skilled American mariners, and a strong shipyard industrial base.
Unfortunately, over the last 35 years, the number of U.S.-flagged vessels sailing in the international trade has dropped from 850 to less than 100. In the same period, we have lost over 300 shipyards and thousands of jobs for American mariners.
To make matters worse, the President has sent Congress a budget that proposes to restructure the highly successful Food for Peace program. Since 1954, the Food for Peace program has provided agricultural commodities grown by U.S. farmers and transported by U.S. mariners on U.S.-flagged vessels to those threatened by starvation throughout the world. The President’s restructuring of Food for Peace will eliminate a vital program for our farmers, put U.S. mariners out of work, and undermine our national security by cutting the domestic sealift capacity on which our military depends. I hope my colleagues will join me in rejecting this misguided proposal.
We are joined today by the Deputy Secretary of Transportation. I thank him for coming. As he is keenly aware, the Maritime Administration has faced very valid criticism in recent years over its handling of Jones Act waivers and enforcement of our cargo preference laws. I hope the new leadership that will be taking over at both the Department and MARAD in the coming months takes seriously their mission to promote and protect the U.S. maritime industry.
I hope to see a renewed commitment to programs like Title XI that help to grow jobs, expand our economy, and maintain critical shipyard industrial capacity. I also hope the new leadership at MARAD and DOT will work closely with industry to reduce Jones Act waivers. Finally, I hope they will stand up when other federal agencies seek to flaunt our cargo preference laws and use the authority Congress gave them to stop them in their tracks.
If we want to grow our economy and remain a world power capable of defending ourselves and our allies, we must work together to strengthen and preserve our maritime industry. I thank the witnesses for appearing today and look forward to working with them to accomplish this important goal.