Industry Leaders Meet To Discuss Maritime Policy, Commercialization
"There is going to be a huge shipbuilding boom in the world, and we (the U.S.) need to be a part of this boom," said John Stocker, president of the Shipbuilders Council of America. Mr. Stocker was a member of a group of industry leaders which met to discuss the issues and legislation, or lack thereof, which will shape the U.S. maritime industry for the duration of the decade.
Sponsored by the Containerization & Intermodal Institute, maritime leaders convened recently at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. for a half-day conference entitled "U.S. Maritime Policy: The Last Chance To Get It Right." Cosponsored by the Virginia Port Authority and the Virginia International Terminals, the conference featured speakers from various facets of the industry, including government, owner/operators, military and building interests.
While Mr. Stocker's views, that the health of the U.S. shipbuilding industry is dependent on the ability to market the product to the international community, are shared by many, the views on what action is necessary vary wildly.
So naturally, the topics discussed during the afternoon were wideranging. For example, Cathleen Magennis, Secretary of Commerce and Trade for the Commonwealth of Virginia, expressed concern over shrinking DOD funds, as 'Virginia receives more Department of Defense funds per capita than any other state." She cited many cures for the current maritime ills, including the proposed center for advanced shiprepair, which is up for consideration for DOD Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) funding, and is a concept hatched between the State of Virginia, the city of Norfolk, Old Dominion University and the South Tidewater Association of Ship Repairers in the Hampton Roads area. The center would be used to study and recommend practices for the use of technology, to enable U.S. yards to increase cost effectiveness, as well as environmental compliance, she said.
Ms. Magennis said that the project wouldnotonlypositionbuilders to be more competitive commercially, it would also be the first step of an important journey, a journey to provide the U.S. maritime industry with a center for hydrodynamic research.
Meanwhile, an aide for Congressman Herbert Bateman (R-Va.) expressed concern about the administration's proposals to repeal cornerstone maritime legislation, including the Jones Act, and called for the passage of a bill which would allow Title XI loans for shipbuilding. Conversely, Robert Quartel, a former Federal Maritime commissioner, and now president of the U.S. Shipbuilding Consortium, believes less government involvement is the route to success. He contested that "the U.S. Coast Guard and subsidies are not the demise of commercial shipbuilding, they are excuses."