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San Francisco PMC Sec-Treas Nick Celona rings a ship’s bell for each lost crewmember from the ill-fated El Faro during a memorial at MTD board meeting.

San Francisco PMC Sec-Treas Nick Celona rings a ship’s bell for each lost crewmember from the ill-fated El Faro during a memorial at MTD board meeting.

The Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO Executive Board reaffirmed its continuing support for several important federal policies that directly affect the U.S.-flag fleet and the men and women who sail these vessels. The MTD met in San Diego February 18 and 19.

The first one undertaken was support for the Jones Act.

After providing various quotes of support from industry and government officials, the MTD statement closed by standing “resolutely committed to doing everything in our power to ensure that the integrity of the Jones Act remains firmly and fully intact.”

To add to this position, the board approved a show of support specifically dealing with the Jones Act in Puerto Rico. The body was reminded of a letter sent to Capitol Hill last year from MTD President Michael Sacco debunking a flawed study recently commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico that “’did not rely on the critical ingredient that was used heavily in a 2013 independent review of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico by the Government Accountability Office – facts.’” The statement called efforts to lift the Jones Act from the Puerto Rican trade “a ruse being used by our industry’s opponents.”

Besides backing the Jones Act, the board approved statements of support for the Maritime Security Program and its higher funding levels; for the increased utilization of the Title XI Shipbuilding Loan Guarantee Program; and for a national maritime policy. The MTD renewed its support for the nation’s cargo preference laws and called on Congress to not undermine the highly successful Food for Peace program.

Another statement adopted by the body outlined the numerous vessels that are under construction, have been christened, or have been ordered from union-contracted domestic shipyards. “These newly built vessels, constructed in union shipyards by hardworking Americans, as well as Congress’ continued commitment to support and defend the Jones Act, serve as a powerful statement to those who seek to undermine America’s cabotage laws,” read the “America’s Shipyards” statement.

The MTD recognized the hard work exerted by its affiliates and Port Maritime Councils to push Congress to reauthorize the U.S. Export-Import Bank.

From a global viewpoint, the board noted with concern a growing dialogue for increased automation at sea that could lead to crew-less vessels. It stated change will happen, but wants to make sure “any new automation, whether aboard ship or ashore, is implemented properly, safely and in such a way that America’s working families share in the benefits of the technology.”

Finally, the MTD joined with the International Transport Workers’ Federation in calling for better access to shore leave for the world’s merchant mariners.