[Op-Ed] A Vision Statement for the Maritime Industry

Keeping America Strong Through Maritime Transportation

Port of Seattle

By Dione Lee 2015-05-21 09:46:39

“We live in a global society which is supported by a global economy – and that economy simply could not function if it were not for ships and the shipping industry. Shipping is truly the lynchpin of the global economy: without shipping, intercontinental trade, the bulk transport of raw materials and the import/export of affordable food and manufactured goods would simply not be possible.” International Shipping Facts and Figures – Information Resources on Trade, Safety, Security, Environment (IMO, 2012)

The maritime industry is the most interconnected of all forms of transportation, supporting millions of jobs and billions of dollars in economic output. If maritime went away, would rail, highway and air cargo be impacted? Absolutely. Then, why is only one half of one percent (.005) of the 2016 U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) proposed budget allocated to the maritime industry? Shouldn’t maritime transportation, the life force that keeps America moving, be at least on par with the other modes of transportation [aviation (18%), highway (60%) or rail (6%)]?

According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), “Of all the sectors that make up the global transport infrastructure, shipping probably has the lowest public profile and the least representative public image. Its importance is not well known although not a single area of our life remains unaffected by it.” 

May 22, National Maritime Day, is an excellent and appropriate time to establish a shared vision, such as: Keeping America Strong through Maritime Transportation. If we want to effect change and receive a larger portion of the DOT budget than the dismal .005%, we need a call to action, which inspires, motivates and is easily communicated and understood at all levels[1]. Then, we need to garner and rally leaders like the following, to honor their commitment and pledge to maritime:

“To keep America moving forward in the 21st century, we need to expand trade and commerce that creates good jobs for our people. Businesses in every corner of our country are stepping up to meet that challenge, ramping up manufacturing and selling more goods and services overseas. As they do, our Merchant Marine is making sure our products get wherever they need to go -- from ports here at home to new markets halfway across the globe. Their work is essential to growing our economy, and my Administration remains committed to getting our mariners the support they need to carry out their mission.”

“Whether equipping our service members in the theater of war or guiding our maritime industry in the calm of peace, the United States Merchant Marine has helped keep America strong for more than two centuries. Let us mark this day by reflecting on that legacy of service, honoring the men and women who forged it, and saluting the proud mariners who carry it forward today.” Presidential Proclamation -- National Maritime Day, 2013

“As global trade will continue to grow, maritime policies must take center stage for the United States to remain an industry leader. America definitely has a proud maritime past. Together, let’s vow to have more firsts in our maritime future.” Congressman Duncan Hunter, Keeping America afloat, May 9, 2013

Let’s take a moment and think about what it would look like to live the vision of “Keeping America Strong through Maritime Transportation”

Have a continual supply of qualified, competent and engaged mariners to move cargo affordably, safely, securely and efficiently. Additional resources would need to be allocated towards learning, clearer career pathways, and increased maritime awareness to draw people who are seeking a high skilled/high wage profession into the industry.

A stronger national defense with U.S. mariners that support U.S. interests during a crisis. We would have the loyalty and commitment of our own citizens defending what is at stake. Tony Munoz’s Op-Ed article “The Arrogance of Senator Corker” makes a compelling argument that we need to spend some serious vested time as a nation on U.S. maritime issues. Tony states, “If the U.S. military has another drawdown of any significance, the fact is there will not be enough licensed U.S. seamen to sail supply vessels, and foreign companies will have to move the cargoes for the military and that will be a national travesty.”

Clearer intent and impetus to move forward better together as a U.S. maritime community, with increased level of dialogue and revitalization of the industry as a whole through more incentives for U.S. flag vessels and companies within global and domestic trade. This would reduce dependency on foreign control of the U.S. maritime trade. We would better contemplate cargo preference programs and the long term trickle down benefits of the Jones Act.

A preserved National Maritime Heritage for future generations with increased awareness of the benefits and criticality of moving goods over water. This American legacy would be fiercely protected as our mariners have supported and protected our freedom for 240 years.

Sustainable dynamic movement of goods, while expanding trade and commerce that creates good job in the U.S. and continually fosters a healthy economy.

Be the Global Industry Leader in maritime transportation, support services and intermodal connectivity – the sophisticated hub of the wheel for all forms of transportation moving billions of tons of cargo in a safe, environmentally sound and efficient manner.

Realize the America’s Marine Highway Program’s vision: “The full integration of Marine Highway vessels and ports into the surface transportation system to ensure that reliable, regularly scheduled, competitive, and sustainable services are a routine choice for shippers.”

Congressman Elijah Cumming’s Keynote address during the SOCP 2014 Fall Meeting said it well when he concluded his keynote by saying, “Our maritime system is the essential blood stream of our modern world economy. You are invested with power - the ability to do good or, misused, to do incredible harm. Ultimately, leadership in our maritime system is a function of public trust, as well as of competence. And only those who are prepared to live up to this standard can be allowed to lead.”

Keeping America Strong through Maritime Transportation, are we ready to lead?

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.