In 1933, the U.S. Congress decreed May 22nd as National Maritime Day. Each year since then, May 22nd has become the day the United States observes its proud maritime heritage, honors the men and women who serve or have served as merchant mariners
, and recognizes the many benefits that today’s maritime industry provides.
This year, National Maritime Day comes on the heels of National Transportation Week, which, according to U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, “is an opportunity to celebrate our achievements in transportation and face up to the challenges ahead.”
The United States maritime industry is a critical part of the transportation network that moves goods worldwide from where they are grown, mined or manufactured to where they are ultimately consumed. It also provides for passenger transportation, both for business and pleasure. America’s maritime transportation system is an economic generator, attracting private and public investment in plant and equipment. These investments create economic activity and sustain family-wage jobs, supply critical energy lines, and facilitate world exports.
As a way to underscore the importance of the maritime industry to the national transportation system, this year the U.S. Maritime Administration (MarAd), supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Coast Guard, the American Association of Port Authorities, The Propeller Club of the United States, Waterways Council Inc., National Waterways Conference and other maritime groups, have introduced an awareness campaign designed to focus national attention on the U.S. maritime industry. Called, "Maritime Matters," the campaign is helping to communicate the value of the maritime industry in relation to the economy, national security, jobs, environmental protection, agriculture, quality of life, recreation and more.
According to MARAD, the U.S. marine transportation system annually:
• Moves more than 2.5 billion tons of domestic and international freight
• Imports 3.3 billion barrels of oil to meet U.S. energy demands
• Transports 113 million passengers and 32 million vehicles by ferry
• Serves 78 million Americans engaged in recreational boating
Furthermore, more than 8 million passengers embarked on cruise ship voyages at U.S. ports in 2004, and that number is growing an average 8 percent annual clip.
Our maritime industry and the transportation network in the U.S. is unparalleled in the world. We as Americans should take the opportunity to engage in activities to celebrate both National Maritime Day and National Transportation Week, using the resources provided us by MarAd and its maritime industry partners.