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Gen. Van Ovost Emphasizes Maritime’s Vital Importance

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The commanding officer of the United States Transportation Command (TRANSCOM) recently reiterated her ardent support of the U.S. Merchant Marine.

Addressing the Maritime Trades Department (MTD) Executive Board via video on April 25, Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost also made it crystal clear that America’s national, economic and homeland security depend on maintaining a vibrant maritime industry.

Her remarks, aired at the board’s meeting at AFL-CIO headquarters, included a warm tribute to the late MTD/SIU President Michael Sacco, who passed away in late 2023.

Gen. Van Ovost stated, “America’s economic prosperity is delivered on the oceans, and America’s national security is rooted in it. All of you in the Maritime Trades Department and your organizations and affiliates are key to maintaining our collective prosperity. Your unwavering commitment and unquestionable expertise in maritime trades, anchored by your professionalism and patriotism, are the reasons why we continue to prosper today in a free and open world. It’s these qualities that make you such an important part of the TRANSCOM team. We rest assured knowing that when we are called, our partners in the maritime industry will be right there along with us to ensure the defense of our nation.”

The general pointed out that recent months have been especially active and high-profile for the maritime industry.

“I hope that you pause to reflect on how important the work you’ve done this past year has been to our nation’s success,” Gen. Van Ovost said. “Throughout the year, you continue to play a massive part in our country’s commitment to support the people of Ukraine against Russia’s unjustified and unprovoked invasion. Your efforts … have had immeasurable impacts on global peace and security.

“And of course, there’s the Red Sea,” she continued. “Houthi attacks on merchant vessels following Hamas’ horrific attacks on Oct. 7 threaten freedom of navigation, global shipping and economic security. With nearly 12% of global trade transiting the Red Sea, any disruption has major impacts on all countries, affecting millions of people who rely on the food, medicine, fuel and other essential supplies carried through it…. Thank you for your contributions to balance threat mitigation with executing national requirements. It took a team effort. Your commitment to the longstanding partnership between the military and maritime industry is greatly appreciated. And I hope you take great pride knowing that through these events, you have honored your legacy and commitments to our nation, in peace and war.”

Gen. Van Ovost pointed out that sealift is often “the most cost-effective and efficient mode of transporting goods and supplies,” and with that in mind, “we rely on a strong maritime industrial base ensuring access to modern vessels, shipyards, repair facilities and drydocks and skilled workers…. We must prioritize expanding the fleet of American-owned, American-flagged and American-crewed vessels through reflagging foreign ships and producing our own.”

She then reinforced her support of the Jones Act, the Tanker Security Program and other foundational components of American maritime.

Reflecting on President Sacco, who had retired in early 2023, Gen. Van Ovost said his passing “filled us all with immense sadness. Mike embodied what it means to serve, dedicating 65 years to the maritime industry and four years in our great Air Force (he was a veteran)…. We remember Mike as being a wonderful partner to TRANSCOM and we will miss him dearly. As we build upon Mike’s legacy, the partnership between our organizations has never been stronger.”

Gen. Van Ovost concluded, “Our future is on the water. So thank you for your professionalism, dedication and patriotism in service to our nation. And a big thank you to President Heindel for his leadership and partnership. I’m grateful for your abilities to chart a course for the nation and the maritime workforce on which our national prosperity and defense depends. We are a maritime nation. America was at our birth, and we sailed the oceans to global prominence. And it’s imperative that we maintain our strength as a maritime nation today. Together, we deliver.”

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