During the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s markup of H.R. 4005, the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill, Subcommittee Ranking Member Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, CA) spoke up for American jobs, a revival of the maritime industry, and a Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights.
Because the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill modernizes maritime policy, provides budget stability, and adds needed resources to support Coast Guard operations, Garamendi voted in favor of the legislation. The bill was unanimously reported out of Committee.
“The Coast Guard and Merchant Marine are indispensible for America’s economic and national security,” said Garamendi. “This Coast Guard Reauthorization bill provides our mariners with the tools they need to get the job done. The bill reverses sequestration budget cuts that have undermined our coastal security and provides greater budget stability through a two-year authorization. The bill also provides multi-year procurement authority for the new Offshore Patrol Cutter to expedite the construction of this new class of cutter once production begins, and it reauthorizes the Small Shipyard Grant Program to stimulate job creation in local shipyards, such as the Bay Ship and Yacht Company in Alameda which received a grant in 2011.”
A video of the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014 markup is available at: http://transportation.house.gov/calendar/eventsingle.aspx?EventID=369298
Ranking Member offered an amendment that would phase in a requirement that all export of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) from the U.S. would be on U.S. built and U.S. flagged ships with American crews.
“Natural gas is a strategic national asset that has helped spur a revival of American manufacturing. When done thoughtfully, limited exports provide an excellent opportunity for creating American jobs in building and manning LNG ships,” said Garamendi. “What is needed is a law that requires that LNG is exported on U.S. built ships, flagged in America and crewed by American sailors.”
In addition to his LNG “Make It In America” amendment, Garamendi offered two other amendments to improve the legislation.
He offered an amendment that would authorize a Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights to ensure that the well-being of U.S. cruise vessel passengers is not left to chance.
“Several recent stomach-churning incidents show that when cruise ships take a turn for the worse, passengers are completely at the whim of the industry. This is patently unfair and consumers are losing confidence in this business. For that reason, we need a Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights,” said Garamendi.
He also offered an amendment would strike Sections 307 and 308 of the bill that seek to weaken longstanding seafarer protections. Section 307 would restrict foreign seafarers from filing claims seeking “maintenance and cure” for damages or expenses related to personal injury, illness, or even death – in violation of centuries old maritime law principle and an international convention ratified by the U.S. in 1939. Section 308 would arbitrarily cap the amount that cruise ships would have to pay in penalty wages when they demonstrably withhold seafarers’ wages. The industry has not provided any evidence that penalty wage claims are an imminent financial threat to any cruise line, much less the industry.
“These two sections are an affront to seafarers everywhere, both here in the U.S. and abroad. By denying established legal rights to foreign seafarers, Section 307 would encourage ships to hire these workers,” said Garamendi. “Section 308 would remove a basic protection for American mariners: a guarantee that they will be paid for their work.”
While the Committee failed to adopt these commonsense measures, Ranking Member Garamendi will continue to advocate for them as the bill advances.
Congressman Garamendi said, “I thank Chairman Duncan Hunter for working with me to develop bipartisan legislation that will bolster our maritime sector. In addition to smart measures to update policy, the bill advances a National Maritime Strategy to reinvigorate our Merchant Marine.”
Garamendi recently delivered a speech calling for a National Maritime Strategy at a Department of Transportation hosted symposium, and the text is available at: garamendi.house.gov/sites/garamendi.house.gov/files/images/NationalMaritimeStrategySpeech.pdf
Source: Office of Congressman John Garamendi