On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. John Garamendi, D-Calif., and Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., sent a bipartisan, bicameral letter urging U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to ensure that U.S.-flagged and crewed vessels play a key role in the transportation of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports to China.

Recent reports indicate that an agreement to end the retaliatory tariffs between the U.S. and China will include substantial commitments by the Chinese to purchase U.S. LNG exports. Sen. Wicker and Rep. Garamendi’s letter urges the administration to use this opportunity to create new jobs in the U.S. and reinvigorate the U.S.-flag international fleet.

“America is on pace to be the third largest producer of LNG exports by 2020. If we don’t use these trade negotiations to require our LNG exports to ship on U.S. vessels, the United States will continue exporting its LNG on foreign-flagged ships manned by foreign crews,” Garamendi said in a statement. “The U.S.-flag international fleet has declined 60% since 1991 to just 80 vessels. These negotiations give us the opportunity to reenergize American shipyards and rebuild our nation’s dwindling merchant fleet, which provides a vital economic stimulus and critical sealift capacity for our military. I look forward to establishing a dialogue with the administration on this matter, and I thank Senator Wicker for leading the effort in the Senate to grow the U.S.-flag fleet.”

“The United States should seize every opportunity to bolster our domestic maritime industry,” Wicker said. “As we pursue stronger trade agreements with China and other nations, I urge the administration to consider supporting the American merchant marine fleet by requiring liquid natural gas and crude oil exports be transported by U.S.-flagged and crewed vessels.”

Last Congress, Wicker and Garamendi introduced the “Energizing American Shipbuilding Act.” This legislation would guarantee that fixed percentages of all exported LNG and crude oil would travel on U.S.-built, crewed, and -flagged vessels starting in 2025. If enacted, the proposal would expand the U.S.-flag fleet and support thousands of new jobs for U.S. mariners, shipyards, and the domestic maritime industry, Wicker and Garamendi said..

Wicker and Garamendi plan to reintroduce the bill this Congress.

Senator Wicker and Representative Garamendi’s letter can be read here.

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.