Congressman Elijah E. Cummings praised the passage of the Maritime Workforce Development Act, H.R. 2651. The bill passed on a voice vote, with more than two-thirds of the House voting in favor. Congressman Cummings wrote this legislation to address the education and training needs of our nation’s merchant mariners.
H.R. 2651 amends Title 46 of the United States Code, directing the Secretary of Transportation to establish a student loan program to attract the next generation of workers to good paying jobs available in the maritime industry. The loan program will also help those already in the industry obtain the certifications and training they need to move ahead in their careers.
Many of those who currently work in the maritime industry are nearing retirement age. The Maritime Administration indicated that at the time of the hearings regarding this bill, the average age of a mariner with a Master’s license was 51 while the average age of a Chief Engineer was 50.
While many facilities in the United States provide outstanding training programs for those seeking to enter or advance in the maritime field, tuition can be very expensive. Mariners who have already begun their careers rarely enroll in two or four-year educational programs. Instead, they typically enroll in multi-week courses to obtain a specific new certification – and they enroll in such courses several times a year.
Individuals can receive up to $60,000 in loans over the course of a lifetime. H.R. 2651 also authorizes the appropriation of $10m in each of fiscal years 2010 through 2015 to support loans, attracting new individuals to a field critical to the success of our national economy.