President-elect Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he has chosen Elaine Chao, a former Labor Secretary and top DOT official with deep ties to the maritime industry, as his Secretary of Transportation.

The maritime industry has watched this selection closely as the DOT Secretary oversees government maritime programs, including the Maritime Administration and its training academies and efforts to sustain a viable merchant marine and waterborne transportation system.

Chao will also be directly involved in Trump’s ambitious plans to rebuild the country’s aging infrastructure that will likely include ports and waterways. The president-elect has said infrastructure improvements top his to-do list when he takes office in January. Many say Chao’s experience in the executive branch and as a private banker who closed deals on transportation funding will be assets in her new post.

Also helpful will be her personal ties to Congress. Her husband is Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senator from Kentucky who is the Senate’s Majority Leader.

Chao, 63, is no stranger to the maritime trades. She served as deputy DOT Secretary under President George H. W. Bush, chair of the Federal Maritime Commission from 1988-89, and deputy administrator at the Maritime Administration during the Reagan administration.

She also has family ties to the shipping industry. Her father, James Chao, joined the merchant marine after majoring in navigation in college in China and rose to the rank of captain at the age of 29. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1958 and after settling in New York City founded Foremost Maritime Corp. The company has grown in size and influence over the years, from a maritime agent during the Vietnam War to operating a fleet of 16 dry cargo ships today. The business has made James Chao, now 88 and still the company’s chairman, a wealthy shipping magnate.

Press reports indicate that Foremost flags its ships in Liberia to avoid U.S. taxes, and that 90 pounds of cocaine were found by officials in Colombia amongst the coal being hauled on one of the company’s European-bound ships. Foremost also donated thousands of dollars this year to help McConnell win re-election, raising questions about whether the senator favored policies that benefitted his wife’s family shipping company.

As Secretary of Labor for eight years under George W. Bush, and in the number two spot at DOT, Elaine Chao spoke often before maritime groups, underscoring the importance of the merchant marine to the economy and national defense. Her sister, Angela, who helps run the family business, has spoken at Massachusetts Maritime Academy, where she’s on the school’s International Maritime Business Department’s Advisory Board, and has mentored young cadets as interns at Foremost. The family also donates large sums of money for education programs, most recently financing a center for executive education at the Harvard Business School.

While at the Labor Department, Chao was a pro-business administrator who supported privatization and deregulation and was lax on enforcement and worker safety, according to the New York Times. It’s not yet clear how such views might affect maritime policies.

Chao’s nomination is expected to be approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, where her husband exerts large influence as the majority leader.

Pamela Glass is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for WorkBoat. She reports on the decisions and deliberations of congressional committees and federal agencies that affect the maritime industry, including the Coast Guard, U.S. Maritime Administration and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Prior to coming to WorkBoat, she covered coastal, oceans and maritime industry news for 15 years for newspapers in coastal areas of Massachusetts and Michigan for Ottaway News Service, a division of the Dow Jones Company. She began her newspaper career at the New Bedford (Mass.) Standard-Times. A native of Massachusetts, she is a 1978 graduate of Wesleyan University (Conn.). She currently resides in Potomac, Md.