A skilled Merchant Marine and strong U.S. shipbuilding industry are critical to America’s national and economic security declared the Navy League of the United States in its 2011-12 Policy Statement. The 32-page document credits the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime laws with playing a crucial role in today’s irregular warfare environment.
“The ability to access [the] maritime capability of ships and seafarers is essential to our national and economic security,” the Navy League said
. “The Voluntary Intermodal Agreement, which includes the domestic Jones Act fleet, provides 135 ships, 213 barges and tugs, and worldwide intermodal capability. Without these commercial capabilities, the U.S. government would
be required to provide significantly more funds to build a replacement fleet and infrastructure while losing the pool of highly qualified mariners needed to sail these vessels.”
The Navy League also emphasized the critical importance of a strong American shipyard capacity. Citing the benefits of Navy, Coast Guard and commercial shipbuilding, the League said “It is essential that this nation have a policy at the highest levels of government to support and sustain an adequate industrial base capable of providing and supporting a strong Navy and maritime commerce.”
The report said the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime laws boost security by adding a sealift capacity as well as an expanded pool of trained and experienced mariners to crew U.S. government-owned sealift assets. These laws also help to sustain the U.S. shipbuilding and repair industrial base that is vital to the U.S. Navy. Ninety-five percent of the equipment and supplies required to deploy the U.S. armed forces is moved by sea.
“The Navy League recognizes that our military needs to maintain a strong Merchant Marine of U.S-flagged vessels and domestic shipbuilding capacity to support our armed services worldwide,” said James Henry, President of the Transportation Institute and Chairman of the Board of Directors of the American Maritime Partnership. “The domestic fleet provided fully half of the mariners needed to crew U.S. government-owned sealift vessels activated from reserve status to support military efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we need to be certain the United States can continue to sustain this essential capacity.”
According to the Policy Statement, the base of skilled U.S. Merchant Mariners is shrinking. The shipping capabilities of the Maritime Administration’s Ready Reserve Force and the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Military Sealift Command are currently sized to support routine and some surge logistics and specialized mission requirements. “This critical capability must be maintained by ensuring an active commercial U.S.-flag Merchant Marine to support efficient and cost-effective movement of DoD cargo,” the Navy League said.