REMARKS AS PREPARED
MARK H. BUZBY
HAMPTON ROADS CHAMBER ANNUAL MEETING
DEC. 6, 2018
Thank you for that introduction.
And thanks for the warm welcome. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be here today in this great maritime region that I’m proud to call home.
As many of you know, I’ve lived in the Norfolk area for a long time, and although I now work in DC, this area remains my home. And my wife who still lives here in Norfolk ensures I don’t forget that. We’re neighbors.
I’m honored to be here with so many maritime leaders and individuals I consider true friends from the waterfront and business community.
Many of you know my background, for those who don’t, I was born in Atlantic City, a block from the ocean.
I spent my youth exploring the back bays of south Jersey, literally counting the days before I could head out to sea.
From that young age, I never wavered in my desire to serve my country. First in the Navy, completing a 34-year military career and then supporting the military services and federal and commercial transportation industry as the President of the National Defense Transportation Association.
I now continue to support the Department of Defense’s strategic deployment mission as head of the Maritime Administration.
My career has exposed me to both the military and civilian sides of the strategic sealift equation that most Americans have not seen or are not aware of.
In fact, most Americans are surprised to learn that it’s not the Navy, but U.S. civilian mariners, the merchant marine, working onboard U.S.-flagged vessels that transport cargo and military supplies – equipment, fuel and other provisions that our military needs to successfully engage our adversaries.
They would be even more surprised to learn that the number of both U.S.-flagged ships engaged in international trade and our nation’s available pool of qualified mariners are dwindling, a cause for great concern to our nation’s military leaders.
The maritime administration is tasked with ensuring the U.S. has enough U.S.-flagged commercial ships and U.S. citizen mariners to sustain our armed forces in an international conflict or crisis. That means the buck stops right here.
By way of background, our nation’s sealift assets include government-owned vessels and a larger fleet of privately-owned, commercially operated U.S.-flag vessels and intermodal systems around the world.
It also includes the pool of qualified mariners who operate them. During our most recent conflict, these vessels and mariners transported 90 percent, 90 percent of the equipment and supplies used by our military.
MARAD’S MSP program supports the fleet of 60 privately-owned, commercially operated U.S.-flag vessels. These are large vessels that are actively operating in commercial trade – mostly container and RO/ROs. Participating operators agree to make their ships -- and their global logistics capacity available to the military -- whenever the need arises.
In return, MARAD provides a small stipend to help offset the cost differential for operating under the U.S. flag.
The government-owned surge fleet of 61 strategic sealift vessels includes 15 ships operated by the military sealift command, or MSC, and 46 in the maritime administrations ready reserve force, or RRF.
This fleet delivers military equipment and supplies on very short notice during major contingencies. Seven RRF vessel are berthed in this area.
One of those vessels, the M/V Cape Ray, was turned a ship into a chemical weapons neutralization facility certified by the united nations organization for the prohibition of chemical weapons (OPCW) for an operation in international waters.
Two dozen U.S. government agencies -- and dozens of commercial support companies collaborated successfully to neutralize almost 1.2 million pounds of chemical agents at sea without spilling a single drop, causing a personnel injury, having an adverse effect on the environment or harming the general public.
Of course, ships need trained mariners.
MARAD’S Ready Reserve Force are maintained in reduced operating status (ROS), with minimal crews, on 5-10 days notice. Once activated, their crews are brought to full strength with U.S. civilian merchant contract mariners.
The military relies on these U.S. civilian merchant mariners to crew both the commercial and government cargo ships needed in wartime as well.
Our entire system of military deployment and sustainment depends on a viable, qualified, sufficient pool of talent.
We need people to crew these ships and we currently don’t have enough. A recent study for congress shows that we are about 1800 mariners short of what we need for a full mobilization and sustainment.
Of course, all this is happening at a time when our nation is struggling just to keep enough ships in the U.S. merchant marine to employ sufficient numbers of qualified mariners to serve the nation’s defense and emergency-related sealift requirements.
Eighty-one deep-sea, internationally trading U.S. flag vessels and 99 large Jones Act ships are what we are dealing with today.
At least 45-50 more large U.S. flag ships are needed to employ enough mariners to just meet our needs in a major war.
And remember, these are minimum numbers to go from red today to just crossing into green on the stoplight chart.
This doesn’t take into consideration the kind of attrition we would face conducting operations against the potentially immense threats in today’s contested environment.
Meanwhile, China has built a commercial fleet of some 2,200 ships. Recent events underscore the importance of our strategic sealift and maintaining an adequate pool of qualified, licensed mariners.
Both DOT and TRANSCOM have provided options to the Administration and Congress on how to address the shortage of qualified, available mariners needed to meet our military sealift requirements.
My commitment to my nation is one of the reason I’ve made Norfolk my home. Norfolk is home to the world’s largest naval base and a thriving commercial vessel industry, meaning this region truly understands the importance of maritime to our national security and economic prosperity.
It’s also why I’m such a strong proponent of the Jones Act – it boosts the commercial U.S. shipbuilding and repairing industry, supports jobs for mariners and brings billions of dollars to the national economy.
The Jones Act requires only U.S.-flagged and U.S.-built ships crewed by American mariners to transport passengers and cargo between ports.
When I look around Norfolk I see the benefits of the jones act at every turn. It acts as a self-policing invisible shield that relieves law enforcement and homeland security agencies from the constant pressure of monitoring and patrolling U.S. waters.
It has come under attack like never before in my memory these past two years, especially during hurricane season, but the U.S. maritime industry and merchant marine stood strong throughout.
At MARAD we’ll continue to defend it as a pillar of our national security and economic prosperity – both of which are on proud display here in Norfolk.
This region represents the heart of this nation’s sea power, if you ask me.
This is home to one of the nation’s most heavily trafficked and efficient marine highways – the 95 express
I’ll leave you with this final thought – and it has to do with Norfolk’s future growth as one of the most important gateway ports in the nation – blessed with a deep channel and no major bridge encumbrances.
Rising concerns about the impact of traditional fuels, such as diesel, on the environment are leading more and more companies to switch to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as their preferred fuel.
An increase in demand for this sustainable fuel has encouraged ports around the world to develop LNG bunkering facilities.
Since the shipping industry is gradually turning to liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a fuel for ships and tankers – I see Norfolk as a natural site for an LNG bunkering facility.
Presently Jacksonville’s port is the only hub on the us east coast to offer on-dock and near-dock LNG fueling services, thanks to a partnership with TOTE Maritime, puerto Rico and Crowley Maritime, which both operate in the port.
In my mind, Norfolk could become a very valuable fueling stop for an increasing number of large international container ships that now use LNG. Dominion’s Cove Point LNG export facility is located just up the coast, so the logistic make good sense.
Ships are going to have fuel up somewhere, and it might as well be here in Norfolk, my home.
Long after I’m done working for the Maritime Administration I’ll be living here and watching this region continue to grow and prosper as a maritime hub for our nation. Norfolk has so much going for it, and I’m proud to be a part of it.
Thank you, and I’m happy to answer any questions.