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“Without you, our national security and national defense … wouldn’t be as good”.

That heartfelt message was delivered by Rear Admiral Mark Buzby at the MTD’s executive board meeting in Orlando.

According to Buzby, who heads the Military Sealift Command (MSC), the relationship between private sector shipping companies, maritime labor and the MSC has been a win-win for everyone involved. The MSC has access to some of the nation’s most highly skilled mariners and one of the world’s most advanced intermodal networks. Conversely, the MSC has become the largest single source of jobs for American civilian mariners.

The admiral said he is proud of the changes he has ushered in since taking over the helm in 2009. Not only is the MSC “taking better care of people,” but “my people, your people, our people have come through every time.”  One of the best examples of that has been humanitarian relief efforts in Haiti, which still are continuing.

Appearing for the third time at the winter meetings, Buzby primarily spoke on the state of labor-management relations, which he described as “a top priority.”

Noting that he has implemented new procedures to ensure “that we continue to work as a team,” he added that a good relationship between the military and the private-sector maritime industry is “critical to ensuring supremacy of the seas.”

Thanks to this extraordinarily productive relationship, the MSC has been able to take on new missions. Despite increasing budget pressures, the agency continues to upgrade its inventory of vessels. The MSC recently launched its first joint high-speed vessels. The final ship in the Lewis and Clark-class of dry cargo/ammunition vessels is scheduled to be launched in May. New equipment enhancing the agency’s aviation and minesweeping capabilities has been secured. 

This year’s budget will be particularly important. Buzby is optimistic that the agency will be able to secure new equipment. He expects that the Maritime Security Program will continue to be funded at full and adequate levels.

Buzby said that he intends to continue “to take advantage of your expertise and training (and) …. your seamanship and shipbuilding skills.

“I’m looking forward to moving forward ahead.”