In January, we concluded the Maritime Administration’s first National Maritime Strategy Symposium. We’re pleased that it included so many leaders who work every day providing for the economic and national security of our nation’s waterways.
The U.S.-flag commercial fleet, crewed by U.S. merchant mariners, provides safe, reliable and environmentally responsible transport of cargo to support economic activity – both domestically and internationally. Maritime trade is a critical part of our country’s economy.
That’s why the three-day symposium was so important. More than 250 people representing shippers, operators, labor, academics and government agencies participated in roundtable discussions, panel sessions and presentations, all focused on developing a national maritime strategy.
Why do we need a national maritime strategy? Because more than 75 percent of America’s exports and imports are moved by water, and — in the face of changing market trends and increasing international competition — we want to ensure that we continue to control and grow our maritime supply routes. A stronger, more sustainable fleet can help us do just that, creating jobs and strengthening our economy in the process.
The symposium was an important step in the right direction … but only a first step. More meetings will follow as we work to turn the ideas and concepts discussed this week into a structured approach that will have the impact we need. The result should be a policy that keeps America’s sealift capability, protects our long-term economic interests and maintains the strategic asset of the U.S. Merchant Marine.
The maritime industry is so diverse, and the ideas discussed this week have been so far reaching, it will be important to focus on our needs rather than wants. Development of a strategy that all in the industry — shippers, labor, operators, government — can get behind and support, putting our strength and focus on realistic goals that make U.S. maritime sustainable is essential.
Our nation was the world leader in vessel innovation for much of the last century, and I’m certain we can return the U.S. Merchant Marine to its rightful place among the leaders in worldwide shipping. We can, and we must, because doing nothing is not an option.