“Give us the tools. We will get the job done.”
With these words, MTD Executive Board Member Augie Tellez announced the department’s support for the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act (HR 5893), which was introduced during a Capitol Hill press conference on May 22, National Maritime Day.
According to a statement released by the bill’s House sponsor, U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), the bipartisan “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 release further stated that the measure “would require the construction of over 50 ships and the creation of thousands of maritime and mariner jobs.”
Tellez, who also serves as the executive vice president of the MTD-affiliated Seafarers Union, pointed out some members of Congress had attempted earlier in the week to scuttle cargo preference laws. He reminded listeners that American mariners have gone into harm’s way since the nation’s founding – as recognized by several speakers earlier that day during the formal Maritime Day commemoration at the U.S. Department of Transportation.
“Does this country have the courage and will to maintain and support a viable merchant fleet that’s going to get the job done?” Tellez asked. “This legislation and this effort is a step in that direction.”
Garamendi said the bill “would expand and enhance our industrial base, create thousands of jobs… and develop the shipbuilding capabilities vital for our national security.”
Joining Garamendi in supporting the measure is U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), the chair of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.
“If something blows up in Iraq or Afghanistan, we don’t have the ships right now to move our people and equipment,” Hunter declared. “This addresses that problem.”
Moving the measure on the other side of Capitol Hill is U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS), chair of the Senate Seapower Subcommittee: “The domestic maritime industry supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs and is critical to our military readiness and national security. 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,” Wicker added. “The United States must keep up.”
In a letter of support, MTD President Michael Sacco wrote the bill “will rejuvenate a vital domestic industry. It will provide family-sustaining jobs that can last a lifetime. It will ensure the U.S. flag continues to sail on the high seas.”
The MTD-affiliated Steelworkers endorsed the bill for “requiring American-made iron and steel for the hull and superstructure. This legislation will incentivize capital investments and job creation throughout the metals supply chain.”
From Greater South Florida Maritime Trades Council President Paul Doell: “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.” (Doell also is the president of the American Maritime Officers.)
Other backers of the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act include the Shipbuilders Council of America, the Alliance for American Manufacturing, the Navy League of the United States, the Transportation Institute, the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association and the Masters, Mates & Pilots.