WASHINGTON — U.S. government and industry maritime leaders honored U.S. Merchant Mariners May 21 in a celebration of National Maritime Day at the Department of Transportation headquarters, also home to the Maritime Administration (MARAD). The leaders used the occasion to call for strengthening the U.S.-flag shipping industry and the port and waterway infrastructure.
Maritime Administrator Paul N. “Chip” Jaenichen noted that the U.S. Merchant Marine was the nation’s “first all-volunteer force” which “sails into harm’s way to deliver arms and equipment” to support U.S. military forces in combat operations and international crisesm and whose sacrifices were “crucial to our victories.”
He noted that U.S. mariners ply the world’s oceans and 12,000 miles of navigable U.S. rivers and waterways and along 25,000 miles of U.S. coastline and riverfront territory.
“Maritime capabilities have fueled the growth of our nation,” he said, addressing what he said were short-sighted maritime policies that “no longer meet the demands of the modern world” and are hurting the economic well-being and defense capabilities of the nation. “Doing nothing is no longer an option.”
Jaenichen said the current generation owed it to the next “not to leave them at wind and tide and, worse, the political whims of other nations.”
Anthony Chiarello, president and chief executive officer of TOTE Inc., described the 2012 decision of his company to shift to new vessels fueled by liquefied natural gas (LNG), confident that “there was reason enough to merit the switch.” He said LNG was the most efficient and sustainable method of transportation today, “and would reduce pollutants like carbon dioxide by 72 percent and particulate matter by 98 percent.”
TOTE launched its first LNG-powered ship, Isla Bella, on April 18.
Air Force Gen Paul J. Selva, commander, U.S. Transportation Command and nominee for vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, praised the sealift capabilities provided by Merchant Mariners and MARAD’s Ready Reserve Force (RRF) and Maritime Security Program (MSP). The RRF provides 60 ships in the first 30 days of mobilization and the MSP 60 ships in the next 30 days, with the 60 RRF ships turning around for the third 30-day period.
“We can’t win without you,” Selva said. “Victory is based on the 60-60-60 rule. I need 11,000 Merchant Mariners on any given day.”
“Ports are a vital piece of the U.S. supply chain and the economy,” said Kristin Decas, chief executive officer and director of the Port of Hueneme, Calif., and recently installed as chairwoman of the American Association of Port Authorities, noting that 23 million jobs — one fourth of the U.S. economy — are dependent in some way on U.S. seaports.
Decas said the United States needs to invest $9 billion per year in port infrastructure.
“It’s time to build America’s 21st century port infrastructure,” Decas said, noting that failing to invest will cost the economy $3.1 trillion by 2020 and prevent the creation of 3.5 million new jobs in the national economy.
RDML Anita L. Lopez, deputy director for operations for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), noted that President Thomas Jefferson created the nation’s first scientific agency in 1807, the Survey of the Coast, forerunner of the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey, now part of NOAA.
“I think he’d be pleased with the result of the last two centuries,” Lopez said, noting the work of NOAA in providing accurate navigational charts for the maritime industry.
The concluding speaker, RADM Thomas K. Shannon, commander of Military Sealift Command, honored the 10,000 Merchant Mariners who lost their lives in World War II and gave examples of how the Merchant Marine is serving the Navy’s and United States’ needs today, including delivering the bombs and fuel used in the air campaign over Iraq and Syria.
Shannon stressed the importance of the Jones Act and of maintaining a “U.S-flag sealift capability with trained American mariners.”
Three members of the maritime industry were honored with the Merchant Marine Medal: Raymond P. Eberling, chairman and chief executive officer of the National Defense Transportation Association; John F. Reinhart, chief executive officer of the Virginia Port Authority; and, posthumously, William D. Eglington, an instructor for 34 years at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Education in Piney Point, Md.
The ceremonies closed with a wreath laid by Jaenichen and Coast Guard VADM Charles D. Michel, deputy commandant for Operations, and bell-ringing honoring Merchant Mariners who lost their lives in service to the nation. The wreath was to be moved to the World War II Memorial in Washington for the Memorial Day weekend. National Maritime Day is May 22.
RICHARD R. BURGESS- Sea Power Magazine