Bipartisan bill calls for more US-built ships for petroleum export

The following is text of a news release from Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif.:

(WASHINGTON) — On Tuesday, Rep. John Garamendi, the ranking member of the Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, introduced in the House of Representatives H.R. 5893, the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act of 2018. The legislation seeks to rebuild America’s domestic shipbuilding and maritime industry by requiring a small percentage of exported crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) be transported on U.S.-built and U.S.-flagged vessels by 2040. The bipartisan bill, which would require the construction of over 50 ships and the creation of thousands of maritime and mariner jobs, is being carried in the Senate by Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.

Garamendi and Wicker introduced the bill at a press conference together with Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.; the chairman and the ranking member of the House Armed Services Seapower Committee, Rep. Rob Whitman, R-Va.; Reps. Joe Courtney, D-Conn., and Donald Norcross, D-N.J., as well as representatives from the shipbuilding industry, the maritime industry, the iron and steel industry, and labor leaders.

“Rebuilding America’s shipbuilding and mariner base is an idea that unites Democrats, Republicans, metallurgical trades, the business community, labor, and our armed forces,” said Garamendi. “These industries are not only vital to our economy — they’re vital to our country’s national security. Congress has neglected our maritime industry for too long, to the point that we’re now several dozen merchant ships and 1,800 mariners short of what’s needed to guarantee sufficient sealift support in times of crisis. This bill seeks to turn the ship around by taking advantage of America’s energy export boom to bring back American shipbuilding, shipyard, and mariner jobs, rather than continuing to outsource them to countries like China. I believe this bill is the start of a long-term reinvestment in the idea of America as a maritime, seafaring nation.”

“The domestic maritime industry supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs and is critical to our military readiness and national security," said Wicker. “This bill would strengthen our shipbuilding industry and would recognize the importance of having more American-flagged ships to transport our growing exports of oil and natural gas. China, India, and other nations are investing heavily in their shipbuilding capacity. The United States must keep up.”

“We can have the best military equipment and trained warfighters in the world, but without the sealift capacity to get them to where they need to go, it doesn’t do much good,” said Hunter. “Today, the U.S. international fleet has fallen to about 80 ships from a high of more than 1,200 during World War II. Unless we reverse that trend, our nation will be forced to rely on foreign countries for force projection, a situation we cannot allow to happen. This legislation will strengthen America’s shipbuilding base by ensuring we have the necessary industrial infrastructure and skilled labor pool of welders, fitters and sailors needed to rapidly mobilize in times of conflict. This bill will have strong national security implications and I applaud its introduction.”

Congressman Rob Wittman: “Continued congressional support of a healthy commercial maritime industry and U.S. merchant marines is essential to domestic security. Despite the usage of heavy lift aircraft, large oceangoing vessels remain crucial to military mobility in the 21st century. U.S. troops stationed in the Middle East and Afghanistan receive much of their supplies via U.S.-flag vessels because of their capacity and low cost. Bringing manufacturing and maritime jobs back home will not only help in the event of a disaster but will also show our domestic industrial base that we support them.”

Matthew Paxton, president, Shipbuilders Council of America: “The Shipbuilders Council of America is proud to endorse the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act and would like to thank Congressman Garamendi and Sen. Wicker for their efforts to ensure that U.S.-produced energy is exported on U.S.-built ships. This legislation would invigorate the critical shipyard industrial base which is comprised of more than 400,000 highly skilled men and women across the U.S. This industrial base is not only essential to our economic security but also our homeland and national security. SCA applauds your commitment to our industry and this important piece of legislation.”

Navy League President Alan Kaplan: “American mariners and the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base are a crucial part of our national security, delivering crucial armaments and supplies the warfighter needs on U.S.-built ships. This bill ensures there will be enough American mariners and U.S.-built ships in the future to support the needs of our men and women in uniform.”

American Shipbuilding Suppliers Association President Chris Cikanovich: “The American Shipbuilding Suppliers Association (ASSA) is in full support of the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act. We are proud to be part of some amazing supporters of this bill and look forward to it being passed to help further benefit and grow our American manufacturing base.”

American Maritime Officers President Paul Doell: "American Maritime Officers stands in strong support of the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act. This legislation recognizes the critical roles of American shipyards and the U.S. merchant marine in national and homeland security and U.S. commerce. It sets a course for the invigoration and expansion of vital American infrastructure and expertise, and for the lasting creation of jobs for American mariners and shipbuilders – a base of professionals upon whom the U.S. military depends for our nation's strategic sealift capabilities."

Bill Van Loo, secretary-treasurer of the Marine Engineers Beneficial Association: “The men and women of the merchant marine provide vital military and economic capacity that cannot be replicated elsewhere. Day in and day out, our members demonstrate a willingness to sail into danger in order to supply our military overseas. When foreign vessels and foreign mariners turn away, American vessels and American mariners will always heed the call to service. This legislation will add desperately needed ships and jobs to the U.S. fleet. We look forward to working with the sponsors to ensure that this legislation becomes law.”

Klaus Luhta, vice president, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots: “We are thankful these leaders from both sides of the aisle recognize the critical impact American ships and the maritime industry have on the American economy.”

Editor's note: H.R. 5893 is an updated version of the Energizing American Shipbuilding and Maritime Act, H.R. 6454, introduced in 2016.

By Professional Mariner Staff