Utilization of U.S. Vessels and Mariners

The Maritime Administration's First Priority

The Maritime Administration's first priority under the Deepwater Port Act is to ensure that liquefied natural gas (LNG) and oil imported into the United States is accommodated safely and securely as part of meeting the on-going need to balance the nation's security requirements with our growing energy and economic needs.

What purposes do deepwater ports serve?

Deepwater ports serve as the nation's point of entry for vessels transporting LNG and oil to be delivered by pipeline for end use by consumers. At present, the continental United States has two operational LNG deepwater ports, one LNG deepwater port that is being decommissioned, and one oil deepwater port that is operational. Increased consumer demand for LNG and oil will clearly require skilled mariners, new vessels, and expanded terminal infrastructure.

It is estimated that as many as 9,000 mariners may be needed by 2025. This increased need for additional mariners, which in the near term could result in mariner shortages, coincides with the growth of the global LNG fleet. From 2007 through 2012, the global LNG carrier fleet grew by 79 percent, increasing from 202 to 362 vessels. An additional 56 LNG vessels are scheduled for delivery to service the global LNG trades by 2015. Advances in LNG tanker size, the increased number of LNG carriers in the worldwide fleet, and improvements in LNG transfer technology have made mariner training and the continuous improvement of their skills a priority. Accordingly, there is strong international competition among China, Japan, Korea, and the United States for skilled mariners, as the global trade in LNG expands.

How is training the U.S. Mariners beneficial?

Ultimately, the employment of highly trained, skilled, and licensed U.S. mariners will help to alleviate the growing worldwide shortage of professional mariners confronting the international LNG shipping industry. It will also serve to support the industry's excellent safety record by maintaining the number of qualified mariners in the LNG officer pool. The Maritime Administration and LNG deepwater port operators understand the importance of mariner training to the growth of global LNG trade.

U.S. mariners are highly skilled in the operation of steam plants used on the majority of LNG vessels and are experts in operating other marine main propulsion systems, such as diesel, diesel electric, and gas turbines. In addition, America's maritime officers unions continue to train their members to the highest industry standards in LNG technologies.

What efforts has the Maritime Administration undertaken to provide additional training opportunities to U.S. Mariners?

The Maritime Administration is required to consider national interests in the issuance of deepwater port licenses. We consider the employment of American citizens aboard LNG vessels serving the nation's natural gas receiving facilities to be in the best interest of the United States. Placing the transportation of LNG under the control of U.S. mariners, who are subject to strenuous security checks, will add an additional layer of security to our nation's energy supply chain.

Under separate statutory authority under the Maritime Education and Training Act of 1980, as amended, the Maritime Administration educates and trains future merchant marine officers for various employment opportunities within the maritime industry. To this end, the Maritime Administration administers and operates the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, and the agency provides financial support and training vessels to six state maritime academies in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, and Texas. All six state maritime academies and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, as well as other related training facilities, have indicated a strong interest in expanding their curricula to include course work focused on the unique demands of the LNG trade.

What are the results of the Maritime Administration's training initiatives?

We are already seeing results from our efforts. As a result of this program initiative, the Maritime Administration has entered into innovative public-private partnerships with several deepwater port license applicants. Under one such agreement, Northeast Gateway agreed to provide training and employment opportunities for U.S. citizen officers, cadets, and unlicensed mariners serving aboard their tanker fleet. Other deepwater port applicants, including Neptune and Port Dolphin Energy, have committed to similar manning agreements with the Maritime Administration to develop programs to train and employ U.S. mariners on LNG vessels.

The Maritime Administration will continue to reach similar voluntary agreements with our future deepwater port license applicants and other energy companies serving the nation’s international maritime markets.