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The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO joined with three of its affiliates to inform the Maritime Administration (MarAd) that enforcement of America’s cargo preference laws is needed to maintain a strong U.S.-flag fleet.

“The MTD firmly believes that nation’s series of cargo preference laws is a bedrock of the U.S.-flag maritime industry,” Executive Secretary-Treasurer Daniel Duncan noted at an October 3 public hearing called by MarAd on cargo preference.

 “The President has requested that MarAd provide insight into cargo preference regulations to ensure that they are not ‘outmoded, ineffective, insufficient or excessively burdensome,’” added Seafarers Executive Vice President Augie Tellez. “Our nation’s cargo preference laws are none of the above.”

Speaking on behalf of both the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA) and the International Organization of Masters, Mates and Pilots (MM&P), MEBA Chief of Staff William Doyle stated, “MEBA and MM&P support strict oversight of the nation’s cargo preference laws. MEBA and MM&P urge the Maritime Administration to undertake rigorous enforcement of the cargo preference laws to ensure that the requirements are followed to the letter of the law, and other agencies that have cargo preference responsibilities follow the letter and spirit of the requirements.”

The trio was among 11 speakers before a panel consisting of MarAd Administrator David Matsuda, Chief Counsel Denise Krepp and Acting Associate Administrator for Business and Finance Development Christopher McMahon. Almost every presentation dealt with the need for strong enforcement of the present laws.

Tellez told the panel, “If I had to sum up our feelings about the administration’s performance when it comes to cargo preference matters in one word, that word would be ‘frustration.’”

He listed recent actions by the Department of Energy and the U.S. Agency for International Development that “willfully flaunted cargo preference laws, resulting in a major loss of cargo that, under existing laws, should have been carried on American bottoms.”

“We are losing cargo. Our cargo preference laws are not being adequately enforced,” Tellez concluded.

Doyle added, “Without oversight and enforcement from MarAd, the presence of the U.S.-flag fleet in foreign trades would cease to exist, leaving a glaring hole in our national defense capabilities and negatively impacting our economy. The strict enforcement of our cargo preference laws by MarAd is in the interest of all Americans and must be maintained.”

He reminded the panel that the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Logistics and Material Readiness stated in 2004 that “any change in cargo preference that would adversely impact the U.S. merchant marine will have a similar negative impact on (the Department of Defense’s) mobilization capabilities.”

Both Doyle and Duncan quoted from a letter then-U.S. Senator Barack Obama sent to the presidents of the U.S. maritime unions in the summer of 2008 proclaiming his support for the nation’s cargo preference laws:

“A strong U.S.-flag commercial fleet needs our nation’s cargo preference laws. Whether it is carrying needed goods to those overseas in distress or moving government-generated cargo, American mariners aboard American ships make sure the job is done. People around the world look to the U.S. flag as a symbol of hope and determination. Ships flying Old Glory with American crews are important icons of our resolve.”

In addition, Duncan said cargo preference laws are job creators:  “Cargo preference laws help create good-paying jobs for American workers, provide tax revenues at the local, state and federal levels, and make sure America’s merchant marine is ready and available when needed for strategic sealift and other defense interests.”

Counsel Krepp noted MarAd would make all testimony available for the public record as it considers whether any recommendations should be taken to the White House.