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MARAD Administrator, RADM Ret. Mark Buzby gives his remarks to attendees of Maritime Day Ceremony.

We celebrate Maritime Day each May 22 to honor those who served and those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the U.S. Merchant Marine, to note the critical contributions of the maritime industry to our Nation’s defense and economy, and to focus ourselves on strengthening U.S. maritime to meet the challenges ahead.

Nothing better exemplifies the excellence of the American mariner that Captain William Boyce and the crew of the GREEN LAKE, who performed a harrowing at-sea rescue in the mid-Pacific on New Year’s Day. Through gusting winds and heavy swell, Capt. Boyce and his crew saved seven mariners who were trapped on the forward deck of the burning vessel SERENITY ACE. Every day, in large ways and small, American mariners like Capt. Boyce and his crew contribute to the safety of others at sea and show themselves willing to sacrifice for their fellow mariners.

American mariners and U.S-flag ships are also the foundation of our national defense, providing for the military sealift we need in times of international conflict or domestic crisis. Our Nation’s military response would be severely restricted if not for U.S. commercial shipping and American mariners. We owe them a debt of gratitude for always being ready to answer their country’s call.

For our economic security, the U.S. maritime industry offers the opportunity to control our own commerce and provides tens of thousands of jobs at sea and in shoreside employment in shipbuilding and repair and related industries. It is an American job engine.

As we enter an age likely marked by big-power competition, we must ensure the U.S. maritime industry is prepared for the tomorrow’s challenges. We must recapitalize the government’s Ready Reserve Force to ensure emergency sealift capacity, and bolster the number of U.S.-flag vessels in international trade, along with the qualified mariners to crew those ships. We must continue to defend the Jones Act, which is our last line of defense against unfair competition from highly subsidized foreign competitors.

We can and must strengthen our maritime industry now if we are to ‘provide for the common defense’ and ‘promote the general welfare.’ America’s strength rises and falls with the health of the maritime community. We must ensure that we are ready to meet the challenges ahead.