An Open Letter to the President

Statue of Liberty

By Klaus Luhta 04-06-2017 01:51:45

Dear Mr President,

As a member of the U.S. maritime industry, I write to request clarification of your stance on the Jones Act. We respectfully need to know whether you will stand by this industry that is foundational to American security around the world or do we all need to get on Careerbuilder?

Thank you in advance for your answer.

Somali pirates don’t care about the U.S. merchant marine. They didn’t care when they did bad things and made Tom Hanks play a guy named Captain Phillips on the big screen. Mr President, please don’t be like a Somali pirate and upset Tom Hanks.

Thanks to that movie a new generation of pirates knows if they hijack a ship with a U.S. flag on the stern they will get shot by Navy SEALs in a nighttime attack replete with tension and nuanced emotion.  It was a great film. Especially the final scene, which you can see here.

In that scene, Mr Hanks truly embodies how the U.S. maritime industry feels following every budget appropriation.

At least the U.S. Navy cares about the American merchant marine. And they should. The Navy owes its genesis to merchant ships that needed protection from pirates along global trade routes. Not much has changed since Barbary days except that people seem to have forgotten about ships and we have fewer Naval officers named John Paul.

You may ask, am I just salty that the Naval Academy snow removal budget is larger than the entire Merchant Marine Academy budget? Maybe a little bit. But ask any Seapower professor at either academy why the Navy exists and they’ll be glad to tell you.

Mr President, think of shipping like the Keystone XL pipeline. You wouldn’t go to the trouble of building that massive pipeline with parts from Korea only to let Liberians run it. But this is exactly what is happening to ships carrying our vital assets to all corners of the world.

May we suggest you consult with members of your cabinet about ships. But maybe not your trade advisor, Wilbur Ross, who owns a fleet of foreign-flagged ships (the equivalent of moving all your factories to China. Sad!).

Also, don’t talk to Secretary of State Tillerson about ships. We may end up with a fleet of Exxon tankers we don’t need.

We think Transportation Secretary Chao’s heart is in the right place, but she has to go home to dinner every night with Senator Mitch McConnell, who speaks only in Heritage Foundation parables. The Heritage Foundation apparently thinks American-flagged ships are unconstitutional. Who knew?

On second thought, don’t talk to your cabinet. Just trust me. The American maritime industry is very, very good. The best. We have the best mariners on the best ships. Believe me when I tell you this is the truth.

Maybe the new Maritime Administrator you appoint can garner congressional funding and support to lead the revitalization of American shipping. 

Maybe the Jones Act can be renamed the Trump Act. Late Senator Wesley Jones probably wouldn’t mind so long as it strengthens our shipping fleet.

Mr President, we have all kinds of ideas and many who are qualified to talk about them. You can find us all on Careerbuilder.


Klaus Luhta is a graduate of the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York and Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed Master and a licensed attorney. Klaus has sailed all types of ocean-going vessels around the world for more than a decade before coming ashore to practice law. Klaus currently focuses his efforts in the areas of maritime policy, legislation and regulation, both domestically and abroad as Vice President of the International Organization of Masters, Mates, & Pilots.

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