Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA), the Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, was honored by the International Propeller Club of the United States with their “Salute to Congress” award for his unflagging support of the maritime industry.
The Propeller Club and its members are involved in all aspects of the maritime industry, including shipping lines, shipyards, ports, maritime labor organizations, and mariners. Congressman Garamendi called for an industry-wide commitment to rebuild the American merchant marine sector which has declined by more than 89% since 1979. In 1979, there were close to 600 American-flagged ships, but there are less than 100 today. Excerpts of his remarks follow:
“If we think about the future, if we think about what is possible, we can see a resurgence in the maritime industry and every one of its pieces. America will soon export liquefied natural gas, LNG, and quite possibly crude oil. Let’s require that the export of theses national assets be done on American built ships, flying the American flag with American sailors. Consider the possibility of American shipyards building hundreds of new tankers, tens of thousands of middle class American jobs and thousands of American mariners.
“When a ship is built, the supply train for parts spreads out to virtually every part of the United States, to every Congressional district and certainly every state. If the maritime industry were to organize and mobilize, there would be sufficient political power to pass a law that would require the export of oil and gas to be done on American ships.”
Speaking to the graduates of the California State Maritime Academy in Vallejo, California on April 25th, Congressman Garamendi repeated the challenge and the opportunity:
“If you look to the stern you will see a gloomy sight of lost jobs and American ships converted to foreign flags. Look to the bow, search the near horizon, because the opportunity for the resurgence of the maritime industry is nearby. Demand that Congress pass a simple law requiring that the export of our strategic national asset, natural gas and oil, be shipped on American flagged ships built in America’s shipyards with men and women just like you designing the ships at the naval architect’s computer and managing the construction in the yards. As those ships slide down the ways to float upon the seas, you will climb to the bridge or engine room and proudly sail it around the world, once again flying the stars and stripes into foreign ports.”
The Coast Guard Authorization of 2014, which was signed into law, included Garamendi’s Growing American Shipping Act, H.R. 5270. It authorizes the Department of Transportation to develop policies that enhance the national security and port safety of the United States by encouraging the transportation and exportation of liquefied natural gas on U.S. built and flagged vessels to the maximum extent practical.
On April 22, Garamendi joined other House Transportation Committee leaders in introducing the bipartisan Coast Guard Authorization of 2015, which would require that this job-creating program be put in place within 180 days of enactment. A follow up bill will soon be introduced to amend the long standing Alaska North Slope oil export law which requires American ships to the export of crude oil and LNG from all US ports.