Remarks Prepared for
Mark H. Buzby
ARC Naming Ceremony – M/S ARC INTEGRITY
Friday, September 20, 2019
Thank you, Chuck, and good morning everyone. It’s a pleasure to be with you all here this morning in Helen Bentley’s Port of Baltimore. I emphasize that because I am still fearful that Helen will somehow reach out and smite me with her cane even though she has left us a few years ago. That’s the force that she was! Mr. Ebeling, General [Michael] Wehr, Mr.White [MPA Exec. Dir.], and of course the dean of the waterfront Seafarers President Mike Sacco - it’s good to see you all on this on this fine maritime morning.
I bring greetings from my boss, our U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, who as you know, knows a thing or two about ships and is a tremendous supporter of America’s maritime industry. I know that she is pleased and proud to see ARC’s newest investments in America’s national and economic security.
I’m pleased to be back in Baltimore to see three new ships – fresh tonnage – renamed and christened under the US Ensign and into the Maritime Security Program. INTEGRITY, RESOLVE, INDEPENDENCE – all-American virtues and ideals that were identified by our Founding Fathers as foundational to our way of life and our national beliefs. And now they will carry those ideals into every foreign port they call on with those names proudly painted on the bow and stern of each ship, and those words being uttered with every VHF radio transmission.
I know it’s not lost on this crowd, but today, too few of our countrymen understand the vital importance of maritime issues and the significance of every single ship sailing under the Stars and Stripes. We’re working very hard at the Maritime Administration alongside industry to change that lack of understanding—for the simple reason that the U.S. maritime industry is about economic security, it’s about national security, it’s about trade, and it’s about jobs.
America’s military strength is inextricably tied to the maritime industry. That’s because American commercial vessels, like these three ARC vessels, are essential elements for military sealift. I just was speaking to group of young Army officers earlier this week at headquarters and posed the question to them: “How do you think you get to war?”
After some blank stares, I told them that while a few might go in the back of a C-17, the preponderance their combat maneuver forces – the rolling stock – and the sustainment for their forces – would get there in a ship crewed by volunteer civilians.
Virtually everything the military requires in a deployment moves by ships. Some of them are government-owned. As a matter of fact, as we speak, there are two ships of my Ready Reserve Force right here in Baltimore (Cape Wrath, Cape Washington) and 26 other ships at 8 other homeport that are coming to full operating status and will put to sea within the next several hours as a live test of their readiness to respond to national tasking.
But to sustain sealift in an extended deployment, the American military must rely on our commercial vessels. That’s why we need a strong, properly sized, U.S.-flag fleet, including U.S.-flag merchant ships in regular international trade – like INTEGRITY, RESOLVE, and INDEPENDENCE.
Yet, today, of the more than 40,000 large, ocean-going merchant ships of all nations currently sailing internationally – you know the numbers: only 81 are U.S.-flag ships.
These vessels employ the highly-skilled mariners we need to crew both the government-owned and commercial sealift ships. Fewer U.S.-flag ships mean fewer mariner jobs, and fewer trained mariners for sealift. The crews that are walking down the pier to crew up those activating Ready Reserve Force ships come from that pool of mariners who crew these commercial ships. 48 hrs ago they were home on shore leave or in training, and they have answered the call. But plain and simple, we need more ships, we need more mariners to sail them.
Programs like the Maritime Security Program into which these three ships are entering are designed to ensure that we maintain an absolute bare minimum of commercial sealift capability to serve our Nation’s needs in times of emergency. We do that by offering U.S. flag operators like ARC a $5 million stipend to remain under U.S. flag when economics would otherwise dictate fleeing to a foreign flag to enjoy a more advantageous financial situation.
As I remind my friends in Washington, you can only be so patriotic when the cost differential between operating under a U.S. flag and that of a flag of convenience is nearly $6.5M a year. We’ve gotta help level that playing field for our ships to be able to compete. MSP helps to do just that.
Cargo preference statues which guide 100 percent of DOD cargo and at least 50 percent of non-military U.S. government cargo aboard U.S.-flagged ships if they are available are key elements of the U.S. flag equation too.
I would add that the U.S. fleet also depends on competing for non-government commercial cargo as well. The more the private sector uses American ocean shipping services, the more cargo our U.S. flag carriers haul. And with more cargo comes more ships. So, if you want to support the American maritime industry, ship with U.S.-flag carriers!
I can’t stand here this morning without mentioning the Jones Act and its vital importance to the health of the maritime industry and our National security. There have been many op-eds written lately – much of them slanted and based on long ago debunked falsehoods.
Let me be clear: The Jones Act is the fundamental cornerstone of our Nation’s maritime policy, and has been for the past 99 years. As I have testified before Congress on many occasions, without it, our domestic maritime industry afloat and ashore would fold. You need only ask folks in Australia how things are going there after they repealed their version of the Jones Act. I for one, do not want to cede our internal maritime logistics chain – and the jobs that go with them – to a foreign power. Not on my watch.
As home to the Port of Baltimore, I believe this region understands just how critical it is to have a strong and growing U.S. maritime industry. Folks here understand the interconnected relationship between our Nation’s military sealift needs, our shipbuilding capacity, and the jobs this industry provides at sea and on shore.
That’s why we at the Maritime Administration and the Department of Transportation are so pleased to see ARC making this new investment. Witnessing these three vessels flying the U.S. ensign and enrolled in MSP should be a welcome sight for us all as we work to grow the U.S.-flag fleet to support America’s economic and national security. May they sail safely and boldly with their American crews for years to come.