U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., recently introduced the bipartisan Strengthening Buy America for Small Shipyard Grants Act to strengthen requirements for federal Small Shipyard Grant funding to support U.S. businesses, manufacturers and workers. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

While Buy America requirements already apply to the Small Shipyard Grant Program, there is a loophole in the Maritime Administration’s rules for commercially available, off-the-shelf products. Therefore, these federal grants may be used to purchase equipment that is not made in the U.S.

Baldwin’s legislation would close this loophole to support U.S. businesses and workers like Marine Travelift in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., which employs nearly 200 workers and uses Wisconsin-sourced materials to manufacture boat handling equipment that is exported around the world. It would ensure that products and materials purchased with small shipyard grant funding, including any commercially available, off-the-shelf item, are manufactured in the U.S.

“I strongly believe that American taxpayer dollars should be used to support American workers and American-made products,” Baldwin said in a prepared statement. “This legislation will make sure that federal Small Shipyard grants are used to purchase American products, made by American workers and businesses.”

“Buy America is common-sense policy that we need more of,” said Erich Pfeifer, CEO of Marine Travelift. “Wisconsin businesses make world-class products, and this bill will help prevent us from being undercut by our own tax dollars going toward competing foreign-built equipment.”

“This legislation will help Wisconsin marine manufacturers, and when our customers win, we suppliers do too,” said Jason Nessinger, general manager of ExacTech in Sturgeon Bay. “We appreciate the senator's leadership on this important proposal.”

The new legislation would work for shipyards throughout the U.S.


Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.