The ranking member of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee outlined an opportunity to get American shipyards active building the next generation of LNG tankers to export the product.
U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), spoke to the Washington, DC, Propeller Club luncheon May 8. (Among those attending were MTD President Michael Sacco and Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan.) He said the burgeoning natural gas industry makes for a substantial opportunity to boost U.S. shipbuilding and the U.S. Merchant Marine. He noted that up to 100 new ships could be needed for natural gas exports from a half-dozen U.S. ports.
“If we’re going to export LNG, then it must be done on American-made ships with American mariners,” Garamendi told the audience to a round of applause.
The congressman said he believes public policy neglect has harmed the American maritime industry, but “public policy can drive a resurgence.”
He pointed to natural gas, including liquefied natural gas or LNG, as “a huge opportunity” for the maritime industry and described it as one of the nation’s strategic resources.
Another such resource, Garamendi said, is the shipbuilding industry. He called it “a fundamental asset – a fundamental strategic part of our nation – from the very beginnings even before we were a nation…. However, today we are on a trajectory to lose the ability to [build] ships.”
He said without current new-build orders from the U.S. Navy, the industry “is gone. But, by combining two of the strategic resources this nation still has – natural gas and shipbuilders – we can rebuild and strengthen and keep the American maritime industry in relatively better shape.”
This can be achieved through strong political partnerships involving all components of the respective industries, the congressman stated. When it comes to delivering the message, “You say it is in the strategic national security interests of this nation to have a shipbuilding industry – for the U.S. Navy, for the Coast Guard, and for jobs in America,” Garamendi said. “It is a national security issue. You combine that with the strategic asset of natural gas…. We’ve got to work together to make this happen.”
Turning to the ongoing fight to protect cargo preference laws including the PL-480 Food for Peace Program, Garamendi candidly remarked the program “remains at risk.”
He emphasized that turning the program into a cash giveaway would be disastrous. This is a personal issue for the congressman, not just a political one – he and his wife have volunteered in famine-stricken areas overseas for many years.
“We know what it means when a sack of grain arrives and it has the U.S. flag on it,” he stated.