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SUNDAY, MAY 19, 2019


Thank you, Alan. Good morning, everyone. It’s great to be back aboard Savannah with you to celebrate National Maritime Day. I want to thank the Baltimore Port Alliance for staging this observance.


I bring you greetings from our Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, who is a tremendous supporter of our industry. We are so fortunate to have her leadership at this rather critical time for the U.S. maritime industry.


It’s also a pleasure to be here with Mr. Busch and so many others who grasp the vital importance of maritime issues for our nation.


As Mr. Busch has chronicled and discussed today, the transoceanic crossing of the S.S. Savannah was a monumental achievement. That voyage marked the passing of the era of sail power and the coming of the first industrial age, which would transform the speed of commerce and the nature of naval warfare.


Two centuries later, we’re moving toward a fourth industrial age, one in which a journey like the Savannah’s might be achieved without human hands tending the engines or navigating from the bridge. That new age isn’t yet fully upon us, but that’s where the world is headed—and we need to be prepared.


That’s part of why maritime day is so important.


It’s a time to honor those who served, too many of whom gave their lives as patriotic merchant mariners serving on liberty ships much like the John W. Brown.


It’s also moment to pause and remind ourselves of the importance maritime issues for this island nation of ours—and for ensuring that there is always a new generation of mariners ready to relieve the watch.


For our economic security, a strong maritime community—comprised of ships, sailors, and the shoreside infrastructure to build, support and maintain them—is what allows us to control our own commerce. It supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and provides a livelihood for as many American families.


For our national security, our capable naval fleet is only one part of the sea power equation. The other is our commercial fleet. Those are the ships that move everything our military needs in an extended deployment. It is the foundation of our ability to project power and to defend our interests around the world – our asymmetric advantage.


Yet, despite their importance, the number of U.S.-flag ships in international trade and the number of qualified American mariners has declined precipitously. As a nation, we must once again recognize the vital importance of our merchant marine and take the steps, now, that will enable it to grow again.


I remain confident that we’re going to get there! We are working hard with industry and with congress on several initiatives that would incentivize growth in the U.S. flag commercial fleet and recapitalize of our government-owned Ready Reserve Force sealift fleet.


We’re also increasingly focused on education and training through our nation’s more than 60 maritime high schools, our community colleges, and training institutions across the country.


New era academy’s seagoing career pathway program, right here in Baltimore City, is just one example of how we can spark high school students’ interest in maritime and help them toward community college and a rewarding career.


We want to get “maritime” into those young minds and provide a rewarding career path for a future on the water and to make sure a new generation or mariners is ready to relieve the watch someday.


This stuff doesn’t happen overnight, but we are pushing in many directions, are getting supporters, and will continue to press on.


Two centuries on from the historic cruise of the Savannah, America’s strength still rises and falls with the health of the maritime community. We will need it to meet the challenges ahead.

Updated: Thursday, May 23, 2019