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By unanimous consent, the House and the Senate passed the Howard Coble Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Act of 2014, which authorizes funding for the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Reserves for Fiscal Year 2015 as well as promotes U.S.-flag commercial shipping and shipbuilding.

Included within the measure is a call for the Maritime Administration (MarAd) to develop a comprehensive national maritime strategy. MarAd has been working on such a program, having held a series of meetings and conferences to gather input throughout the year. It also creates opportunities for the nation’s military veterans to transition to careers within the U.S. merchant marine.

The chair of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA), noted, “This legislation upholds the commitment to the men and women who provide for the safety and protection of our waterways, and gives an additional boost to our own maritime interests. [It] also strengthens U.S. maritime transportation by reducing regulatory burdens, encouraging economic growth and removing barriers to employment for our veterans.”

In addition, the bill incorporates language from legislation proposed earlier this year by U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) that authorizes the U.S. Transportation Secretary to develop and implement a program to promote the movement of American-produced liquefied natural gas (LNG) aboard U.S.-flag vessels.

“It is the purpose of this law to enhance the national security and port safety of the United States by encouraging to the maximum extent practicable the transport of LNG on U.S.-built and U.S.-flag vessels,” stated Garamendi, the ranking member of the House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee.

“The U.S. merchant marine is a highly trained, militarily useful labor force, and American merchant sailors are the foundation of our marine transportation system,” he added while thanking the MTD and other maritime unions for their support for the bill.

Both Shuster and Garamendi praised the efforts of House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Ranking Member Nick Rahall (D-WV); House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee Chair Duncan Hunter (R-CA); and Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Chair Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Thune (R-SD) for all their efforts in crafting the Coast Guard bill.

The legislation, which passed December 10, is named for longtime North Carolina Representative Howard Coble (R), who is the only current member of Congress to have served in the Coast Guard. Coble is retiring at the end of this year after 20 years in House of Representatives.