Utilization of U.S. Vessels and Mariners Initiative
The Maritime Administration’s First Priority
The Maritime Administration’s first priority under the Deepwater Port Act is to ensure that natural gas and oil transported to and from the United States through deepwater ports is done safely and securely while balancing 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 offshore point of entry (for vessels transporting natural gas and oil for import to be delivered by pipeline for end use by consumers) and point of exit (for vessels exporting domestically sourced natural gas and oil to foreign markets abroad). At present, the continental United States has two liquefied natural gas (LNG) import deepwater ports and one operational deepwater port for oil imports. A fourth deepwater port for exports will be constructed in the future. Increased global demand for natural gas and oil will clearly require increased utilization of skilled mariners, new vessels, and expanded terminal infrastructure.
It is estimated that thousands of new mariners may be needed in the future. 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. 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 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 vessels serving the nation’s natural gas and oil 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, Excelerate Energy 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 future deepwater port license applicants and other energy companies serving the nation’s international maritime markets.