Downsizing U.S. Merchant Marine Undermines Security

During times of war or national emergency, the U.S. government relies on the U.S. Merchant Marine and its public-private partnership with the Department of Defense to ensure there is adequate U.S.-controlled capacity to transport critical cargo anywhere in the world at any time.

Thanks to this partnership, the U.S. Merchant Marine’s vessels, infrastructure and manpower are at the nation’s disposal whenever necessary. Without this, our assured ability to deliver military equipment and supplies quickly and efficiently to our soldiers would be severely diminished.

As former administrators of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), we have experienced firsthand how vital the U.S. Merchant Marine is to national defense. We were therefore very disappointed to see that the final version of the 2012 Surface Transportation Act — without open discussion or debate — contained a provision that undermines the U.S. Merchant Marine, jeopardizing national security and eliminating thousands of American jobs in the process.

The provision in question, which repealed one-third of long-standing U.S. cargo preference requirements stipulating that U.S. international food aid must be carried by American-owned and-crewed ships, harms our nation’s commercial sealift capability and causes an immediate, detrimental impact on the Pentagon’s ability to move equipment and supplies by sea.

The U.S. will lose the use of an estimated 16 U.S. flag vessels once this provision goes into effect, as well as a highly trained workforce and important intermodal capabilities. MARAD estimates that this change in cargo preference law will lead to a loss of $90 million per year in revenue and 2,000 direct and indirect jobs, including 640 seagoing mariner jobs.

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Article written by retired Captain William Schubert, courtesy of Defense News.

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