Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao extolled
the importance of the maritime industry to America's security and economy in an address to the United States Merchant Marine Academy Alumni Foundation
on Wednesday evening in New York.
"When the history of this era is written, the U.S. Merchant Marine will be remembered as a key part of the effort to defend our homeland," said Chao. "More than 8,000 brave merchant mariners crew auxiliary vessels for the United States Navy
to support our troops in Afghanistan
. Merchant mariners have delivered over 92 percent of the equipment and supplies needed by our men and women in uniform and are vital to winning the War on Terror."
"Merchant mariners also make America's economy stronger as they transport our nation's energy supplies
, goods and passengers," Chao continued. "It is anticipated that cargo and passenger traffic will double in the next two decades, so our country will continue to need skilled merchant mariners."
The addition of three new cruise ships in Hawaii also received mention in the secretary's remarks as an example of the Bush Administration
's commitment to revitalize the U.S.-flagged cruise ship industry. The new ships are expected to create more than 20,000 jobs, including 4,000 seafaring jobs.
President Bush supported the expansion of the Maritime Security Program and 13 new U.S.-flagged ships have been added to America's fleet of deep sea domestic carriers," Chao observed. "The tankers in this fleet help improve America's energy security and are one of the reasons President Bush is committed to strengthening our nation's domestic fleet."
The event benefited the American Merchant
Marine Museum which commemorates the important role that the Merchant Marine has played in both times of peace and war.