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NOV. 9, 2018



Thank you Ed (Kelly) and good afternoon everyone. It’s great to be back in the city and with you all today to talk about ships and sailors – my two favorite topics. My boss, our secretary of transportation Elaine L. Chao asked me to send her greetings and warm regards. 

As you all well know, she’s all about the maritime industry, and it is a real pleasure to work for a boss who is so supportive of what we do.  Sure, makes my job a whole lot easier!  Port Authority President Andy Saparito: nice to see you here today sir.

You and your port authority team continue to be a tremendous advocate for maritime growth and trade here in this thriving port. 

Every time I stand at the waterfront and look out across the upper bay, I’m always amazed to see so much activity back on the water.  All good.

I love maritime history, and have the requisite collection of nautical junk – as my darling wife calls it – to prove it.  So I really admire the work the maritime association has done to capture and preserve the amazing history of this port in particular and the role it played – and still plays today - in our economic and national security.
This venerable association has chronicled the incredible history of maritime activity in this city, from square riggers and schooners back in the 1800s, to the rise of the steam era and the great liners who called here, to some of the largest mega-container ships in the world today.  

At MARAD we know this port well as a pillar of the industry, an efficient, forward-leaning, multi-modal gateway through which every conceivable product – including a huge portion of the nation’s refined petroleum products – transits on a daily basis.

So suffice it to say I’m honored to be here among you as the Maritime Administrator to share a few thoughts.
I’ve been spending a lot of time in this neck of the woods in recent months – at kings point for various events and with other maritime groups along the waterfront. 

As a matter of fact, when I finish our lunch here today – I will make haste down to the waterfront where a fast launch will take me up the east river to Kings Point, and at 1615 this afternoon, I will commission a brand-new rear admiral in the U.S. maritime service: Captain Jack Buono – who will then take over as the 13th superintendent of the academy.  So a big day for Jack, and a big day for the academy.

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the “America’s Blue Highway” conference hosted at Ft. Schuyler, and I know that some of you were also there. There was a lot of energy in that room from the almost 350 people who attended!

Many there told me that for the first time they were actually seeing marine highway: “the concept” becoming marine highway: “the reality” as we were briefed on a number of new projects springing up on our waterways – many of them right here in this area.

In that respect, I hold up the Port of New York and New Jersey as a model for others to emulate.

You have shown that with a solid understanding of the market and a good business case, significant projects can get launched and built -- and can begin making a difference.

It always encourages me, and, genuinely, re-instills my faith in the enormous promise and potential of what this industry can achieve collectively when we work together and pool our intellectual and financial resources.
At MARAD we’re making a big push to extend the utility and capacity of our nation’s marine highways – both inland and coastal - by increasing funding streams, expanding planning and beefing up coordination through our gateway offices.  Captain Jeff Flumigan very capably fulfills that role around here.
This is critical, given that the next 30 years will see a dramatic increase in population growth and a corresponding need to move more goods and people both inside and outside our national lifelines.

In our nation’s largest cities especially, we all feel the impact of the added pressure on our national freight system. It leaves us no alternative but to find cheaper and more efficient ways of transporting cargo.

In this room, I think we are all in agreement that the answer lies back on the water – where cargo movement began in this country before we even had a road and rail network.

Right here in the harbor it’s already readily apparent in the passenger side with the rebirth of the commuter ferry system.  Years ago, ferry traffic was commonplace, and then it seemed like overnight there weren’t any ferries.

And now they are back: a sign of both the extent to which our roads and highways and railways are over-capacity, and of the relative ease of use and efficiency of our largely underutilized waterways – and new vessel technology and new business approaches. We’re seeing similar activities in cities like Boston and Washington and elsewhere.

Our marine highways are really the only remaining “surface mode” of inexpensive transportation capable of absorbing this excess freight volume. So, what do we see going forward? 

We “get it” that it begins with the premise that it’s going to take a significant investment in maintenance, rehabilitation, modernization and capacity improvements in our ports and waterways to fully tap the potential of our marine highways.
That’s not news to you. You all get that around here. I’ve seen lots of change on this waterfront since i was regularly in the harbor some years back.

You all are quite blessed here:  the Port of New York and New Jersey sits at the intersection of three of the busiest marine highways in America and has some of the greatest concentration of maritime activity. 

Marine highway M-95 runs along the east coast; M-87 runs up the north river from New York harbor to Albany, and the M-295 marine highway runs through the east river and down the sound.

Here in this harbor, the level of coordination between the state, the city, and the port authority is very solid. Working together, this port community –along with support from your federal partners -- has invested billions of dollars in infrastructure.

You’ve “raised the bridge and lowered the river” allowing a whole new class of container ships to deliver freight here in the port of New York/New Jersey.

I realize there’s much work to be done regionally, with secondary channels and waterfronts nearby that need similar work to transport more goods and people -- and get even more traffic off the roads. But this port complex of New York and New Jersey is a blueprint for future success.

At MARAD, I have a whole division led by Lauren Brand that spends all of their time researching, planning and thinking about the best ways to prepare our nation’s ports, coastwise and inland waterway infrastructure for the growing freight volumes headed our way…

... And then how to channel that flow through the America’s Marine Highway program. 

Here in your harbor alone, tugs and barges move nearly 28 million tons of domestic freight every year, from consumer products to industrial components and petroleum. Nearly 100,000 containers were moved by tug and barge in 2017, removing that many truck loads from New York-New Jersey roads and bridges.

This region fits MARAD’s formula for “blue highway” development to a tee – a dense population, overwhelmed land transportation systems, limited geography, but plentiful water access. 

We look forward to continue to partner with local and state entities as we go forward together. One thing is for sure:  those will be American jobs protected by the jones act that we will continue to vigorously support and defend. Foreign labor and foreign access to our domestic commerce is not the right answer!

Which brings me to the other most critical part of the equation for a strong maritime industry. And that’s the highly-trained and dedicated American mariners who make this industry run, and who make it great.

We are very fortunate here in the harbor to have two of the best officer training schools nearby.
And I want to give a shout out to Admiral Alfultis and his cadets from SUNY Maritime, and to my fellow Kings Pointers who are here today, and any others in attendance from our state maritime academies around the country.

The more I’m around you, the more optimistic I am that there will be relief for today’s mariners, and that our industry will sail on with a new generation of seafarer.

Mariners who have not only the basic skillsets of going to sea, but a whole new sea-bag of highly technical skills necessary to safely operate and maintain vessels in the future.

And with all of that, they will still have to know how to lead with integrity and competence, and confidence.

It charges me up to be around these young heirs to our nation’s seagoing heritage. And it makes me want to redouble my efforts to get our maritime industry moving forward smartly.  Some one here – perhaps several of you – are going to have a revolutionary idea on how to take advantage of the right mix of technology and business application to take our industry to the next level.

In the meantime, we’re trying to do our part at MARAD. We know quality training of our maritime workforce is core to our mission. Those mariners will crew the commercial and government-owned sealift ships that support our peacetime economic security and our national security in times of conflict.

Unfortunately, our current school ships are aging and outdated. But the FY 2018 budget includes $300 million to support the replacement of outdated training ships at our state maritime academies.


It is going to allow us to build a new class of vessel – the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV) -- to help us sustain the world-class maritime sea training our future mariners require.  


It will be US-built in a US yard, by US shipbuilders. The very first one of those new training vessels will be homeported right here at Fort Schuyler, we hope in the summer of 2022. We’ll have to see what congress says about budgeting for additional ships when they finally pass a budget – but i think we’ll get more.    


Investment in school ship replacement is a strong signal that Secretary Chao and this administration value our mariner human capital and are willing to invest in fostering growth in the nation’s seagoing workforce. MARAD

 is excited to be back in the shipbuilding business.

So thanks again for inviting me to join you today. These are exciting times in maritime!

Carry on!

Updated: Thursday, May 23, 2019