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Founders luncheon at The lighthouse at Chelsea Piers

Remarks as Prepared

Mark H. Buzby

Maritime administrator 

New York Harbor School

Founders luncheon

The lighthouse at Chelsea Piers

Oct. 11, 2018

Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to be with you today.   It’s great to be back in the city and right here on the north river.   I’m very honored and proud to be here to help celebrate New York Harbor School’s 15th anniversary.

I’d first like to recognize and thank Murray Fisher, co-founder of the Harbor School and Chairman of the Board of the Billion Oyster Project, and Nate Dudley, the school’s founding principal and co-chair of this event.   Your vision and commitment to the betterment of the next generation and the maritime industry is why this school still exists today.

I know that you both had a lot of help along the way, so to all other founding partners of the school, those first brave students, and the many friends and political leaders who support this great school – well done and congratulations on the first 15 – a great run that, by all accounts, is only just getting started!

My mission at the Maritime Administration is simply stated, yet difficult to achieve – and that is to help foster and promote the U.S. Merchant Marine and the American maritime industry, and to do whatever we can to strengthen the marine transportation system of this great nation.

In this day and time – when the U.S. maritime industry is facing intense competition from interests abroad, among many other challenges — and we’re wanting to attract a more diverse group of young mariners to our industry — that’s a tough assignment. I can tell you that I am happy to get all the help I can get.

So I say this without exaggeration – the maritime industry, and the U.S. Merchant Marine, owe you all, and particularly the Harbor School — a debt of gratitude.

Through your leadership and vision, you have helped to reach out to, to educate, and instill a passion for working on the water to a whole new generation of budding seafarers.

In addition to preparing these young minds in such disciplines as aquaculture, marine systems technology, and ocean engineering – among many others — you have, perhaps just as importantly, opened the windows of their imaginations to a very storied and proud industry – one critical to our island nation.

The maritime industry has met America’s economic and national security needs with valor and courage since before it was even a nation.

American mariners loyal to our fledgling democracy, and American-made ships plying our most impressive natural waterways, were held in high esteem by our founding fathers.

It’s no accident that our Navy’s first ships and officers came from the merchant marine.  As I like to remind folks – the father of our Navy – captain John Paul Jones – was already a merchant captain before he sailed with the infant American Navy.

Those founding fathers considered a vibrant maritime industry and U.S. Merchant Marine critically important to our young nation’s ability to defend itself, grow, trade internationally, and prosper.

So much so that those same founders enacted a 10 percent tariff rebate to all imports and exports shipped on American-made vessels to encourage the use of American ships.

They wanted to ensure we had plenty of American-made and crewed ships to transport our goods and people.

They knew that when a crisis occurred, or a war broke out, they couldn’t always rely on foreign-made-and-crewed vessels to faithfully defend U.S. Interests.

Believe it or not, that same dynamic holds just as true today as it was then – and we’ve seen it in every war, national crisis, or international emergency throughout our nation’s history.

Many of the Harbor School students have already entered this proud profession, and many yet to come will surely take their place among the new generation of mariners our industry desperately needs.

It’s worth repeating that — if there’s one thing our industry needs at this point in time, it’s sharp, quality young men and women who understand, and have been trained in, the latest technologies and skills our industry must have to compete and survive in this hyper-competitive, increasingly high-tech world.

I have no doubt that the Harbor School will continue to channel talented young mariners into our industry, some of whom will go on to serve aboard and command our most sophisticated vessels.

Let me tack over and speak to the students in attendance here today.   Take a look around and you’ll see people looking back at you who are truly interested in your future and your success.   Why would they care?  Why would I care?

It’s because when we look at you, we see the future of America’s maritime heritage.  We see the next generation who has caught the sea fever — who likes the feel of a deck moving under their feet and the wind in their face and how a work vest feels hugging their bodies – just like we all did.

You give us some hope for this industry of ours.   Someone here – perhaps several of you – are going to come up with an ingenious plan about how to take America’s maritime enterprise to the next level.  It’s going to require leadership and courage, innovation and creativity.  The things that you are learning at Harbor School are preparing you to do just that.

It’s going to require fine-tuned critical thinking skills that are unbiased, and the use of emerging technology that is unconstrained by the “old think” framework that frankly I – or most of the folks of my generation in this room – would never conceive.

So, I challenge you to keep going, keep learning, and dream big.  Our industry needs you – all of you here today. And we need more schools like the Harbor School to carry on America’s rich maritime legacy.

So, carry on my young friends – we are depending on you!

Sail safe!

Updated: Monday, November 19, 2018