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“The national security of the merchant marine fleet is part of the way that we are able to be effective overseas and protect this country. So, I am a great proponent of the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine fleet.”

Secretary of Transportation-designee Elaine Chao reaffirmed her longtime support for the U.S.-flag maritime industry during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on January 11.

Chao served as the Deputy Secretary of Transportation during the George H.W. Bush administration. She also has been the Deputy U.S. Maritime Administrator and the Chair of the Federal Maritime Commission. In addition, she became the first woman of Asian descent to be in a presidential cabinet when she was Secretary of Labor for George W. Bush.

During her hearing, Chao told the senators, “The Jones Act is a very important program that secures national security. We have seen two wars now in the last 25 years… If we did not have the merchant marine assets to assist the gray hulls (U.S. Navy vessels) on these campaigns, our country would not have been able to supply our troops, bring the necessary equipment.

“All that is not done on the gray bottoms, but rather the merchant marine bottoms,” she added.

More support for the Jones Act – the nation’s cabotage law – during the hearing came from senators of both political parties.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) called the Jones Act “a vitally important part of our maritime industry.” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-H!) noted the Jones Act is “the foundation of the domestic U.S.-flag maritime industry and it is also essential to our national security.”

When Chao was nominated by President-elect Donald Trump on November 30, MTD President Michael Sacco remarked, “Elaine Chao has long been a steadfast friend to maritime labor.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation includes several federal agencies dealing with the U.S.-flag fleet, including the Maritime Administration.

Chao faces a vote by the committee then the Senate before she can be sworn into office