The tragic attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11, 2001 ushered in a new era for the maritime industry. The growing partnership that had been developing between the military and the private sector maritime industry since the first Gulf War deepened.
As noted by President Bush in his 2003 Maritime Day proclamation, “More than 5,000 merchant mariners supported Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom by serving aboard 157 vessels moving essential supplies to our troops. As they continue to support our troops in the ongoing war on terror, their mission continues to be dangerous and difficult, and remains vital to our efforts to defend the peace.”
In recognition of the important role that the maritime industry played in Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, Congress extended and reauthorized the MSP for an additional 10 years beyond its 2005 expiration date. In addition to gradually increasing the annual payment to ship owners, it expanded the fleet from 47 to 60 vessels.
MTD President Michael Sacco captured the public mood in a letter to Congress, “We live in a time of uncertainty and danger, where the United States may have to respond to unforeseeable events in some distant location on the globe.
“With so many countries, even traditional allies, indifferent or hostile to our strategic goals, it is imperative that this nation possesses the ability to project its military capability abroad. America simply cannot depend on others to perform this vitally important task.”
Since 2001, leading military figures have reaffirmed their commitment to working with maritime labor to enhance national security. Calling U.S. civilian mariners “indispensable” assets in the war against terror, they have pledged to work with maritime labor and U.S.-flag shipping companies to enhance America’s strategic sealift capability. Civilian mariners have received special training to better coordinate their efforts with the U.S. military and have performed admirably, both in war zones and in staged defense trials.
At a time when labor-management relations were at an all-time low in many sectors of the American economy, maritime labor was able to foster a positive spirit of cooperation with many owners of U.S. shipping companies and shipyards to generate new work for their members.