Delegates from the MTD’s Maritime Port Councils located in Baltimore, Houston, Norfolk and San Francisco joined with nearly 100 representatives from maritime labor and business to promote the U.S.-flag industry during the annual Sail-In in Washington, DC, on June 14.Taking advantage of Flag Day to promote keeping Old Glory on vessels sailing the oceans, inland waterways, Great Lakes, ports and harbors, Sail-in envoys met with elected officials and staff from both the Senate and the House of Representatives from both parties to call attention to several legislative matters before Congress.
Once again, the Jones Act took front and center.
Working in groupings that paired labor and business, the Sail-In crews thanked many members and Hill staff for their longtime support of the nation’s freight cabotage law, including the defeat by the House Rules Committee of an anti-Jones Act amendment to the Puerto Rican financial measure the week before. At same time, they asked the legislators and their aides to remain vigilant to further attempts to weaken the law.
(While Sail-In was taking place, uniformed U.S. commercial flight crews were working the Hill opposing the Obama administration’s approval for Norwegian Air International’s application for a foreign air carrier permit, which would create an airline flag-of-convenience. Sail-In participants and pilots in separate meetings told members of Congress any efforts that weakens the Jones Act or allows NAI access to U.S. air space by overriding cabotage laws would cost American jobs.)
In addition, Sail-In groups promoted efforts already underway on the Hill to increase the annual amount being provided to U.S.-flag shipping companies involved in the Maritime Security Program (MSP). The highly successful and effective program includes up to 60 militarily useful U.S.-flag vessels which would be made readily immediately (as well as their intermodal components) in time of war or national emergency.
While the MSP has been approved through 2023, it still faces an annual appropriation vote. The House okayed $5 million per ship in its Fiscal Year 2017 budget package, but the Senate – which is still working on its document – is considering a lesser amount.
The MSP has received strong bipartisan support through its 20 years of service to the country. Sail-In crews sought approval for full funding for MSP for 2017 and coming years.
Members of Congress were thanked for their support of the nation’s cargo preference laws and their successful efforts to recharter the U.S. Export-Import Bank. As with the Jones Act and the MSP, Sail-In representatives showed how all of these help maintain a strong, viable U.S.-flag fleet which is important to national defense and the economy.
Sail-In also urged members of Congress to support the Vessel Incidental Discharge Act currently being considered on the Hill. This measure would create a single set of regulations at the federal level for the handling of ballast and runoff water from ships within U.S. territorial waters. Presently, many states and local jurisdictions have established their own laws which may differ greatly in just a few miles causing confusion and consternation for vessel crews and companies.