Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (MD-07), Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, held a hearing today, to continue the discussion regarding U.S.-flagged vessels in the U.S. foreign trade.
According to the Maritime Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation, the U.S. flagged fleet consists of only 94 vessels, which carry two percent of American foreign traded goods. Many of the reasons for this shortfall concern the economic challenges that make such operations more costly than operations under so-called flags of convenience. A previous hearing addressed the criticality of the Maritime Security Program and cargo preference requirements to making operation under the U.S. flag economically viable.
Congressman Cummings believes hearings such as the one held Wednesday, Sept. 29 are critical to improving America’s maritime industry, as well as national security.
“I frankly have no doubt that our inability to carry even a small portion of our U.S. foreign trade commercial cargoes on U.S.-flagged vessels represents an economic and potentially a security risk to the nation,” said Cummings. “One of the most important issues that we are looking to address is whether the cargo preference laws apply to cargo financed with loan guarantees created by the Energy Policy Act and administered by the Department of Energy (DOE). It makes zero sense for U.S. loan guarantees to support purchases from foreign countries that would then be carried on foreign-flagged ships.
“We are also anxious to hear how MARAD defines the causes and consequences of the challenges facing our U.S.-flagged fleet, and the policies that MARAD believes should be pursued to maintain and grow that fleet. Our U.S.-flagged fleet is facing significant challenges. It is MARAD’s job, as the entity charged with promoting the development of our U.S.-flagged fleet and our maritime transportation network, to lead the response to these challenges.”