Date of Speech: MAY 17, 2018






MAY 17, 2018

11:00AM – 12:00 PM


Thank you for having me for today’s celebration of National Maritime Day here in San Diego.  Always nice to be back in this seafaring town.

I’m honored to be joining so many maritime leaders and friends from our industry – my old shipmate Dave Thomas, vice president and general manager of BAE Systems San Diego Ship Repair, and his team.

Commander Don Montoro of the U.S. Coast Guard in San Diego; Kevin Graney, President of NASSCO, and your team;  Rafael Castellanos, chairman of the Port of San Diego; San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and councilmember David Alvarez; and all of the other maritime business leaders and friends in attendance.

I had a great tour of the 10th Avenue Marine Terminal earlier this morning, and after lunch I’ll be kicking steel over at bae and at NASSCO. I look forward to that.

MARAD has partnered and collaborated with San Diego for many years, and part of the reason I wanted to visit the 10th Ave Terminal was to see how the $10 million Tiger Grant was going to be applied to rehabilitate the terminal.

By the way, Tiger is now called “BUILD” which stands for “Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development.”  I can report that another $1.5 billion is being awarded this year, a portion of which will be committed to port upgrades and expansions.

This region is a model for the modern maritime industry, and I’m proud to be joining you to celebrate national maritime day — a day when we have the privilege to honor America mariners who have served the U.S. admirably in times of peace and war. Many of those have made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.
Today…  it’s my privilege to recognize the many dedicated seafaring men and women of the U.S. merchant marine who have fueled the economy of the united states of America . . . And supported our growth as a nation for more than 240 years.

By delivering supplies and equipment to our military forces overseas, and commercial cargoes here at home and to other nations, these mariners have helped to sustain the American way of life.
In ways I can’t possibly recount, they have contributed to our society’s security and prosperity. So we owe a great debt to our American mariners – and that includes the many thousands presently employed in oceangoing, great lakes, inland river, and marine-related shore side jobs here stateside and around the world.

You know, we often forget that our nation began with a voyage:  a native American paddling his canoe – the very first Jones Act vessel!  An international ocean voyage intended to grow maritime trade occurred years later… and it was financed by maritime trade.

That early seagoing enterprise transformed an unexplored continent into the most powerful nation on earth.

Through shipping… our country grew in power and influence, gained its independence and ushered in a new, democratic way of life for humankind.

Our founders recognized our enormous waterborne resources – three ocean coastlines, the world’s largest freshwater lakes to our north, and thousands of miles of inland rivers and waterways traversing the heartland – and they wisely linked our nation’s future to growing our maritime strength.

Everything that the maritime industry meant 200 years ago… it still means today.

Through the years the industry has undergone many changes, but one thing hasn’t changed.

During times of domestic or international emergency, America’s merchant mariners are among the first to be called to action to help those in need, both at home and abroad.

We saw that play out vividly during last summer’s hurricane season when America mariners in U.S.-built ships provided the vast majority of the cargo lift – 24 ships – to service the hard-hit island of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Hats off to Jones Act carriers Crowley, Tote, Trailerbridge and North America for their tremendous response.  And they are still there today. And special shout out to pasha for sending the “horizon spirit” around from this coast to assist in the relief effort.

Our mariner’s efforts have been absolutely essential to our national defense, from the revolutionary war on to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan… and every conflict in between.

Today, as we honor maritime’s proud past… We look expectantly to the future– like always, a future “full and down” with challenges.

Many of you may have read my recent testimony before Congress where I expressed my grave concerns about our ability today to meet the nation’s sealift requirements for a prolonged major overseas engagement.

Shrinking numbers of vessels in the U.S. merchant marine, and the resulting decline in our pool of qualified mariners, puts us on the edge of not having enough people to support the world’s most powerful military that we’re preparing to recapitalize.
The simple formula is this: to have enough U.S. ships and mariners to serve our nation’s sealift and sustainment requirements in times of crisis, we need a healthy peacetime maritime industry with enough ships and mariners to meet the crisis demand.   And the key element that determines ship numbers and mariner numbers is cargo.

Today the U.S.-flag fleet in international trade currently carries less than 2 percent of our annual foreign trade.

The U.S.-flag presence in international commercial trade is at an historic low with only 81 ships, which means the pool of qualified mariners needed to crew a prolonged sealift mobilization is also at an historic low. MARAD recently estimated a shortfall of 1,800 mariners for a long term sealift effort.
My team and i have been working closely with us transportation command, military sealift command, the coast guard, and our commercial partners to address these issues.

There are no silver bullets or easy answers, but to meet our national security objectives, i have three tools at my disposal — the Maritime Security Program, or MSP, Cargo Preference, and the Jones Act.

The MSP has been fully authorized for the remainder of fiscal year 2018, which is great news.  The program pays a stipend to 60 of the 81 internationally trading ships that I mentioned earlier.  Absolutely critical program.
And we continue to advocate for robust Cargo Preference levels to help U.S.-flag commercial shipping companies compete and employ an adequate pool of qualified mariners.

We are up on Capitol Hill regularly advocating for the strongest possible Cargo Preference quotas.

I alluded to the Jones Act earlier when talking about hurricane relief.  Here is another program essential to the health of the U.S. maritime industry.   Remember I just spoke about the 81 internationally trading vessels under the U.S. flag?  Well, of the 38,000 or so Jones Act vessels, 100 of them are large oceangoing ships.  That means that those ships provide the majority of the employment pool for unlimited license mariners.

Take away the Jones Act and you have just about cut the active mariner pool in half.   It would also have a devastating effect on domestic shipyards, the supply chains that support them, and vessel operators.   It would be an immediate threat to national defense.

It all comes back to cargo, and finding more opportunities for our ships to carry it.  More ships to carry more cargo equates to more jobs…and more resilience in our sealift capability.

Things aren’t all doom and gloom though!

Between hurricanes Harvey and Maria, MARAD dispatched four of our school ships to locations in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, providing over 35,000 berthing nights and 52,000 meals to first responders.  They demonstrated the importance of having ships ready to respond on short notice for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
A few months later, we saw Congress add $300 million to the MARAD budget, full funding for this country’s first purpose-built training vessel: which we call the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel. And it’s going to be built in a U.S. shipyard, and there will very likely be more than one.
That plus up was part of the largest budget in MARAD’s history. At $979.6 million for fiscal year 2018, it’s nearly a half-a-billion-dollar increase over our 2017 budget.

Congress also provided $45 million in funding for capital improvements at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – an increase of $34 million over FY 2017. That will allow us to accelerate many needed repairs and building replacements.  The six state maritime academies received a total of $32 million for a range of important programs — an increase of $3 million over FY 2017.

These funds will go toward training the young mariners who will serve our military, strengthen our national security, crew our commercial shipping industry and serve the U.S. merchant marine in the years ahead.

Another $289.3 million came to MARAD from the Department of Defense in FY 2018 to maintain the 46 vessels in our ready reserve force, and begin service-life extensions for some.

The average age of this fleet is 43 years old, and 23 of the 46 are steam driven.  Its time to recapitalize this capability.

And in addition to the newly-named “BUILD” grants I mentioned earlier, another $20 million is available in Small Shipyard Grants this year, and we received $7 million for the marine highway grant programs. The notice of funding opportunity should be out before summer on that one.
Major opportunities for innovation and a healthier, more competitive U.S. maritime industry, will probably come through technology.
MARAD has some important developments underway in this area. I have put my deputy administrator – Dick Balzano (Maine Maritime grad) in charge of MARAD’s new research and development program.

His group will be studying and assessing new technologies such as autonomous vessels and cyber-security related innovations, among others.

So things are happening, and MARAD is working with industry and our federal partners to ensure that this new frontier compliments and enhances our industry.

Work is also continuing on our National Maritime Transportation Strategy – which provides a strategic platform for our industry’s resurgence. We view it as our blueprint for the future. It was drafted under previous Administrator Chip Jaenichen’s watch, but I support it and intend to push it forward.

It will help our nation’s maritime leaders prepare for the predicted increased freight flows driven by an increasing population… and guide us in stimulating the modernization, and expansion, of our merchant marine. I want to see it adopted because i believe it can be a steering star for our way ahead. So stay tuned on that.

So, yes, we are working through an extended season of significant challenges in the maritime industry but I think there is also lot to be upbeat on Maritime Day this year.

When it’s all said and done – when we’ve concluded all of our discussions about ships and ports and cargo and intermodal connectivity — the real story is that there are “people” behind those great ships. There are dedicated, highly skilled mariners making the merchant marine work for this nation… keeping the industry afloat, and… on occasion, paying the ultimate price.

In celebrating and saluting these fine men and women – past, present, and future – i commend them for consistently going far beyond the call of duty.


Just last week, I awarded merchant marine Meritorious Service medals to two Maryland pilots, and three launch operators who set out in hurricane force conditions off the Virginia capes to bring a carnival cruise lines ship into the bay that was trying to evade the heavy weather.  20-foot seas and 80 knots of wind – pretty sporty.

But they got the job done safely.

This National Maritime Day observance is fitting tribute to those who have served our nation honorably for more than 200 years. To all of you I say congratulations… and thank you!


Date of Speech: MAY 2, 2018






MAY 2, 2018

Good afternoon and thanks for having me here today.

The United States of America is a superpower because of our global influence and ability to project power around the world at a moment’s notice. This ability was built in large part on the strength of our maritime industry, and in the eight months since I’ve been on the job, the U.S. Merchant Marine has made its influence felt around the globe.

When hurricanes ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, the U.S.-flag commercial fleet answered the call with immediate support of federal relief and recovery efforts.

Between hurricanes Harvey and Maria, MARAD dispatched four of its vessels to locations in Texas, Florida, and the Caribbean, including Puerto Rico, providing thousands of berthing nights and meals to recovery teams.

And in spite of what some in the media were saying, our Jones Act fleet had cargo, food, water, and other supplies stacking up and waiting to be off-loaded at the Port of San Juan at almost the instant that hurricane passed. Our fleet and crews stood tall in that crisis, delivering life-sustaining resources on time and under the most trying of circumstances.
That all happened within the first few weeks I was on the job, and things haven’t really slowed down since.

So let me pause here to share some good news. Four weeks ago MARAD received its largest budget in history. At $979.6 million for fiscal year 2018, it’s nearly a half-a-billion-dollar increase over our 2017 budget.

Within that, congress provided $300 million dollars this year to build a new training ship for Suny Maritime College. This will be a new class of National Security Multi-Mission Vessel to bring our training operations up-to-date and prepare our young mariners for the 21st century. And more good news — it’s going to be built in a U.S. shipyard.

Congress also provided $45 million in funding for capital improvements at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – an increase of $34 million over FY 2017.

And our state maritime academies received $32 million for a range of important programs — an increase of $3 million over FY 2017.

These funds will go toward training the young mariners who will serve our military, strengthen our national security, crew our commercial shipping industry and serve the U.S. Merchant Marine in the years ahead.

Another $289.3 million in funding to MARAD from the Department of Defense in FY 2018 will allow us to begin service-life extensions of the 46 vessels in our Ready Reserve Force. This is the fleet that provides the bulk of our government-owned surge sealift capacity, and many have reached the end of their service life.

So we’ve had some encouraging developments. But now for a dose of reality. Suffice it to say I have concerns about our ability today to meet the nation’s sealift requirements for a military engagement.

In wars past we have been able to play what was known as the “away game,” able to keep the fighting away from our shores by projecting U.S. military power across the ocean through an extensive global, intermodal maritime network.

But because of the shrinking number of vessels in the U.S. merchant marine, and the impact it’s having on our pool of qualified mariners, we’re at the edge of not having enough people to support this great military we’re preparing to recapitalize.

Our mighty battleships will get out to sea in a conflict, but without the food, fuel, water and supplies carried by our commercial U.S.-flag fleet they will only last five-to-seven days. They’ll be sitting dead in the water – because it’s a hollow force without the U.S. Merchant Marine providing sustainment.

At MARAD our primary mission is to ensure that we have enough U.S.-flag ships and mariners to serve our nation’s commercial and military sealift requirements. That depends on a healthy maritime industry supporting enough ships and employing enough mariners to maintain an adequate surge sealift fleet.

Unfortunately, the U.S.-flag fleet in international trade currently carries less than 2 percent of our annual foreign trade. It has been in steady decline since World War II as a result of decreasing demand and rising costs compared to international fleets.

Today the U.S.-flag presence in international commercial trade is at an historic low level with only 81 ships. This means the pool of qualified mariners needed to crew a prolonged sealift mobilization is also at an historic low. MARAD recently estimated a shortfall of 1,800 mariners for a long term sealift effort.

And even if we somehow made that up, it still might not be enough.

In today’s modern military, our merchant marine will almost certainly be operating in a contested environment. It’s no longer business as usual. In past campaigns, we’d crank up our ships, load them up and sail off. But in the next campaign we’re going to have to do all that while getting shot at on the way over.

And we’re living in an age of rapidly advancing technologies that have the potential to greatly impact our operations. MARAD has issued several maritime alerts of late about GPS interference resulting in jammed, lost or otherwise altered GPS signals affecting bridge navigation and other communication equipment.

Mariners in a contested environment will have to cope with this kind of interference. They will have to be re-trained, in some instances, on how to use paper charts and navigate without radar, or even navigating by the stars.  Most ships and crews don’t use those techniques anymore.

And administratively we’re only just beginning to grapple with how this new environment is going to impact our U.S.-flag fleet. I’m talking about war risk insurance, disability and worker’s comp – among other factors — for these ships and mariners sailing in contested sea lanes.

We once had pretty much unfettered access to the sea lanes, but no more. Our adversaries know that logistics is our Achilles heel.

If a conflict breaks out and we start losing ships, we’re going to need even more ships and more mariners than the 1,800 I mentioned previously. Where will those come from? That’s what we’re working hard to try and figure out.

Let me just say that if the fleet continues to lose ships and qualified mariners, a lengthy, mass deployment could require U.S. forces to rely on foreign-flagged ships.

And if history is any indication, that’s not a winning formula. During operation desert shield in 1991, for instance, DOD had to employ 177 foreign vessels to meet sealift needs. This was in addition to approximately 170 U.S.-flagged vessels.

But when it counted most — at the point of delivering critical supplies to our troops — thirteen of the foreign vessels either hesitated or refused to enter the area of operations. Meanwhile, U.S.-flagged ships provided steady, reliable support.

But those foreign ships that balked cost us 34 transit days while trying to supply our troops.

These challenges keep me up at night. I’ve been working closely with the USTRANSCOM, the Military Sealift Command, the U.S. Coast Guard, and maritime industry partners to address these issues. There are no silver bullets or easy answers.

As my friend General Darren McDew, commander of the United States Transportation Command, recently testified before congress, “Our nation is at an inflection point, and we must evolve to remain viable in the future.”

He detailed how volatile geopolitics, shifting demographics, and emerging technologies are changing the character of war. And changing the way we fight, why and where wars are fought, and who is fighting them.

Even so, when the United States goes to war, USTRANSCOM moves 90 percent of its sustainment cargo with the combined strategic sealift force of MARAD’s government-owned ships and the commercial U.S.-flagged fleet.

Deploying a decisive military force is foundational to the national defense strategy, but if we can’t project and sustain that power, the size and lethality of that force is of little consequence.

That is why General McDew has stated, and I quote: “the readiness of the entire strategic sealift portfolio, both organic and commercial, remains the top priority of USTRANSCOM.” Let me repeat – General McDew has said it’s his top priority.

We’re living in the most complex and volatile security environment in recent history. And our past successes do not ensure success tomorrow.

I commanded powerful battleships during my 34-year navy career, and I agree with General McDew’s opinion that we have taken our “domain dominance” for granted for many years.

But that dominance is no longer a given. Our U.S. military and the U.S. Merchant Marine must now plan for direct multi-domain attacks, cyber warfare, blockades to combat zones and compromised logistics support. And we also have to plan for attrition within our merchant sealift fleet.

In its recent wargames and summits, USTRANSCOM found that adversaries can gain strategic advantage from cyber-attacks alone — meaning an enemy no longer has to stop us with bombs or bullets; they can do it with ones and zeroes through cyberspace.

Gentlemen, this is now our reality, and I don’t have to tell you we’re behind the curve compared with many of our fiercest competitors and potential adversaries.

We must quickly grow and adapt, invest and recapitalize, because the joint force’s ability to accomplish its mission is impossible without the U.S.-flagged fleet escorting them to the fight.

Here’s the bottom line. To ensure we have enough mariners and U.S.-flag vessels to meet our national security objectives, i have three tools at my disposal. They are the Maritime Security Program, or MSP, Cargo Preference, and the Jones Act.

The MSP has been fully authorized for the remainder of fiscal year 2018, which is great news. But MARAD and USTRANSCOM are reviewing MSP this year to ensure that the program’s next evolution truly addresses the new realities of national defense.

We continue to advocate for robust Cargo Preference levels to help U.S.-flag commercial shipping companies compete and employ an adequate pool of qualified mariners.

And the Jones Act is, of course, essential to the health of the U.S. maritime industry.

Since I’ve come on board at MARAD, it has come under attack like never before. Let’s just say the loss of the Jones Act would have a devastating effect on domestic shipyards and vessel operators, and would be an immediate threat to national defense.

More concerning is the impact eliminating the Jones Act would have on our mariner pool. As I mentioned, we have 81 deep draft ships in international trade, as well as 100 large Jones Act ships.

That means the mariners manning our large Jones Act ships make up a larger percentage of the available mariner pool than our international ships do. Take away the Jones Act and you’ve more than halved the amount of mariners available to man our sealift ships.

It comes back around to cargo, strategic planning, and investment. Our U.S.-flag fleet has got to have enough freight to carry to justify having more ships to carry it and provide a place for these mariners to work. That’s why our merchant marine flag says: “in peace and war.”

We need a strong merchant marine serving our economic needs in peacetime so that it can also do double duty as this country’s dependable ride to battle.

The stakes involved for our nation are incredibly high. We are doing everything we can to support and strengthen the three pillars. And my colleagues and i at MARAD continue to educate both our stakeholders and the public on the significance of these issues to our national security.

All of the pieces fit together. Lose one component and it can drag down a host of others. If we can’t reverse the dwindling size of the U.S.-flag fleet, we’ll have to reassess our approach and rethink policies of the past to cope with an increasingly volatile future.

Actions we take today to improve readiness and modernize our fleet must be adequate to strengthen and solidify our stature as a preeminent global military power. Anything less puts our nation at grave risk.

Thank you, and I’m happy to answer any questions.


Date of Speech: APRIL 19, 2018





APRIL 19, 2018

Good morning and greetings from the Maritime Administration and the U.S. Department of Transportation. It’s great to be here with the membership of the American Waterways Operators.

I’ve attended a number of inland waterways events since I came to MARAD in August, and have been getting up to speed about some of the critical issues tied to our nation’s inland maritime assets.

After a 34-year career in the Navy, most of them spent commanding big ships at sea, I am reminded almost daily of how strategic these natural inland waterborne highways are to our national security and economic prosperity.

America’s tugboat, towboat and barge industry is, in turn, an essential part of our nation’s maritime and freight transportation system – one of the safest and economical modes of freight transportation.

MARAD values its long-standing partnership with the AWO, and I look forward to getting to know this important group of stakeholders.
A recent milestone in our partnership was commissioning a study on the economic impact of the tugboat, towboat and barge industry. That Price-Waterhouse-Coopers study confirmed the importance of your industry to our economy and to American jobs.

It detailed how water transport uses 75 percent less energy than trucks and 31 percent less than rail to haul a ton of freight. And it confirmed that the tugboat, towboat and barge industry is directly responsible for more than 50,000 jobs.

And it supports these jobs while transporting 69 percent of the lumber, stone and ore — nearly 83 percent of petroleum and petroleum products — and 90 percent of coal moved by water on a nationwide basis.

I was impressed to learn that your industry, both directly and indirectly, supported more than 300,000 jobs and $33.8 billion in GDP in 2014.

That’s great news for our industry at a time when we’re facing more than our share of challenges.

Today we have the lowest number of U.S.-flag ships sailing internationally than we’ve ever had in modern times – a tiny fraction of the total number of ships moving freight on the seas.

That rapid decline has created an even more troubling chain reaction. With the resulting loss of jobs, we’re now facing a severe shortage of qualified mariners needed to pilot these big oceangoing ships in a military crisis. In fact, we may not have enough at this very moment to support an extended conflict overseas.

That keeps me up at night. So it’s with a lot of optimism that I commend your industry, and the American Waterways Operators, for its outstanding work, planning and collaboration to maintain its strength and viability in a challenging time.

The towboat and barge sector could rightfully be called the backbone of the maritime industry. As that study showed, it boosts our nation’s economy and the commercial health of many, many communities around this country.

What many people don’t realize is that your members have also historically led the charge in marine safety and environmental stewardship.

I’m talking about Subchapter M, published two summers ago by the United States Coast Guard. It was completed in tandem with the Towing Safety Advisory Committee (TSAC), the American Waterways Operators (AWO), and hundreds of maritime leaders and experts across this country.

It’s ready to be implemented in July and may be the most important rulemaking tool ever for the tug and towboat industry. It will take marine safety and environmental stewardship in the towing industry to the next level.

That 820-page document took 12-years to complete but was well worth the time and effort. What impressed me most is that you initiated it on your own.
You didn’t wait until there was a major accident or disaster– or until some act of Congress forced it on you. You took a pretty safe, if largely unregulated industry, and in 12 years produced a systematic body of rules to make it even safer.
This is the formula for success if the greater maritime sector is going to survive – much less thrive – in the 21st century.

So to all of you throughout the industry who participated and brought Subchapter M to fruition. . . Congratulations and job well done.

Now the hard work begins of implementing the new standards and making them work in practice. If the past is any indicator, you will not only succeed, but your industry will continue to benefit the American people with safer waterways, quality jobs and commercial vitality. Good work!

Now I’d like to share some other recent good news with you all. Three weeks ago MARAD received its largest budget in history. At $979.6 million for fiscal year 2018, it’s nearly a half-a-billion-dollar increase over our 2017 budget.

Within that, Congress provided $300 million dollars this year to build a new training ship for SUNY Maritime College.

This will be a new class of National Security Multi-Mission Vessel to bring our training operations up-to-date and prepare our young mariners for the 21st century. And it’s going to be built in a U.S. shipyard.

Congress also provided $45 million in funding for capital improvements at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy – an increase of $34 million over FY 2017. And our state maritime academies received $32 million for a range of important programs. That’s an increase of $3 million over FY 2017.

These funds will go toward training the young mariners who will serve our military, strengthen our national security, and crew our commercial shipping industry and U.S. Merchant Marine in the years ahead.

And as you’ve probably heard, most of the 46 vessels currently in the Ready Reserve Force, or RRF, have reached the end of their service life.

That fleet provides the bulk of our government-owned surge sealift capacity and needs to be recapitalized.  $289.3 million in funding to MARAD from the Department of Defense in FY 2018 will allow for service- life extensions.

The numbers are encouraging, but we all know the maritime industry, at its best, is a diverse, interconnected, multi-modal enterprise closely integrated with landside transportation modes. The waterways part of the equation also faces the challenges of an aging and often outmoded maritime infrastructure.
The President’s proposed $1 trillion infrastructure package – which includes the nation’s ports and waterways – intends to unleash private investment by incentivizing public-private partnerships. It will also streamline processes to reduce the amount of time and money required to complete major infrastructure projects.

While this plan is still being unpacked, I can report that $1.5 billion in Tiger Grants are being awarded this year, some of which will be translated into port upgrades and expansions.

There’s also another $20 million available in small shipyard grants, a portion of which will impact waterways operators and facilitate maritime infrastructure projects. The notice of funding opportunity just went out, so stay tuned on that.

And I’m sure you have heard we received $7 million for the Marine Highway Grant Programs.  The notice of funding opportunity should be out before summer.

I know you’re waiting to hear my take on the future of the Jones Act. I don’t have to tell anyone here that the Jones Act– along with the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and Cargo Preference— is a critical part of the equation for a healthy domestic and international U.S. maritime industry moving forward.

They’re the Three Pillars that keep our U.S.-flag fleet and merchant marine economically viable, adequately crewed by qualified American mariners, and ready to respond in an emergency.

The Jones Act has a direct economic bearing on what everyone gathered in this room does for a living.  Its U.S.-build, ownership, and crew requirements support mariner jobs and give us access to domestic maritime assets needed in times of war or national emergency.

It also serves national security priorities by supporting U.S. shipyards and repair facilities that produce and repair American-built ships.

Since I came on board at MARAD in August, just a little over seven months ago, the Jones Act has come under assault like I’ve never seen before. It began when three powerful hurricanes hammered our southern coasts and the Caribbean and it continues today.

Hurricane Harvey had barely approached Houston when calls for Jones Act waivers began. Yet we never saw a lack of U.S. flag capacity.

In fact, just two days after Maria hit Puerto Rico, U.S.-flag Jones brought cargo into Puerto Rican terminals faster than it could be distributed, as well as supplies that had already been brought in prior to the storm’s arrival.

Yet the Jones Act was blamed in the press for delaying the flow of relief supplies.

For example, you had one reporter on the shoreline in San Juan saying: “but since the president waived the Jones Act, look at all the ships that are arriving now!”
The problem was, this reporter was actually pointing at one of Tote’s new Marlin Class container ships on its way in, with a triple-deck Crowley barge in the background.

Yet in spite of all of the false narratives, the Jones Act and the U.S. Merchant Marine stood tall in the crisis and did its job – and continues to do so.

Losing the Jones Act would mean the loss of American jobs and pose grave risks to our economic security. It would also be devastating to U.S. domestic shipyards and vessel operators.

That’s why my colleagues and I at the Maritime Administration continue to educate both our stakeholders and the public on this issue. The stakes for our nation are incredibly high.

Just as the stakes for preserving a vibrant, profitable tugboat, towboat and barge industry are equally high.

Which is why all of us at the Maritime Administration and at the U.S. department of Transportation continue to work on your behalf, to do everything in our power to help you continue this growth and success.

We’re in this together, and we need your industry to stay strong. We need you to continue to support our economy, especially with the increased volumes of domestic freight coming our way over the next 30 years. This industry is a strategic asset to the nation.

It has been an honor to talk with you today. The AWO is an important partner to the Maritime Administration, and to our nation. Thank you again for your service and your contributions.



Date of Speech: MARCH 27, 2018





MARCH 27, 2018


Good morning and thank you for that kind introduction Griff (Lynch, Executive Director of GPA). MARAD has had a long and productive relationship with the Georgia Ports Authority, and it’s an honor to be here to celebrate this important groundbreaking.

The United States has always been a great maritime nation, but we know that if we are to continue as the number one economy in the world – with the world’s strongest military – we must continue to invest in our maritime industry.

Because in today’s fiercely competitive global shipping market, a profitable and resilient marine transportation industry is vital to our national security, and to a growing, prospering economy.

At its best, the maritime industry is a diverse, interconnected, multi-modal enterprise seamlessly integrated with landside transportation modes.

We’re not there yet, as a nation, but the Port of Savannah International Multi-Modal Connector is a significant step toward that ideal. Not only for this region but nationally.
In truth, projects like these are a model for the rest of the nation – something we continually promote. It’s the result of smart, collaborative planning, hard work, and strategic investment.

By expanding your multi-modal capacity and interconnectivity, the movement of containers through this port to and from major population centers across the nation will be drastically improved.

As a nation, we do not have the luxury of allowing our ports to become obsolete… or for our rivers and waterways, locks and dams that support inland waterborne commerce to slowly decay. We must respond, or as an industry suffer a slow death.

We must stop conceding new technologies and market share to our international competitors. The goal is to make maritime commercial transportation a fast and routine option for your customers to get their goods to market.

Fortunately, our industry has a proven track record of long-lasting economic benefits from these types of major infrastructure investments.

Smart intermodal investments create jobs, ease congestion, reduce pollution and fuel consumption while decreasing wear and tear on highways.

Ports are powerful economic engines in their own right. But those that have quick, efficient connections to roads, rail, pipelines, inland waterways, and can move regional products to international markets, are especially potent.
That’s your future here at the Port of Savannah, once this project is complete.

Its impact on cargo fluidity in this region, eliminating time and money-wasting delays now choking freight movement out of the port, will translate into economic benefits nationwide.

These are the kinds of “transformative” projects highlighted in the president’s new infrastructure plan. In addition to encouraging greater state, local and private investment in major infrastructure projects, the infrastructure plan will dramatically accelerate and simplify complex review processes that stall, and sometimes kill, important projects.

Its provisions will incentivize new technologies and alternative methods that transform the way projects are completed. We’re really hoping that it serves as a fresh opportunity — and a catalyst — to re-energize our industry and stimulate long overdue investments in maritime infrastructure.

As an industry we face many challenges, of that we can all agree. But if managed properly — and creatively — like you are doing here in Savannah, hard challenges will only push us to greater heights and usher in an exciting future for the U.S. maritime industry.

On behalf of my colleagues at the maritime administration and transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao, I congratulate you. Thank you and good luck.



Date of Speech: FEB. 8, 2018







FEB. 8, 2018

8:30-9:20 AM

Good morning. . .

Thank you Dr. Busch for that introduction. . . It is my privilege to serve as the maritime administrator… and today i represent my hardworking team at the Maritime Administration and secretary of transportation Elaine L. Chao.

I have been looking forward to this important and timely meeting of stakeholders and leaders in the security and maritime industry. The stakes surrounding our nation’s homeland security and national defense have never been higher.

This morning, I hope to provide you an update on the state of the U.S. Merchant Marine’s role in the nation’s homeland security, and the Maritime Administration’s response to growing cyber-security and piracy threats impacting our industry.

Our primary responsibility at MARAD is – number one — to ensure that the U.S. merchant marine, which carries all the food, fuel, and sustainment supplies for the United States military, is up to the task at the drop of a hat. That translates into making sure we have enough fully equipped, modern vessels and enough highly-trained, fully-qualified mariners to meet our military sealift requirements in times of conflict and crisis.

That’s the most important part of my job, and it is MARAD’s fundamental mission. This goes hand in hand with maintaining a strong, resilient marine transportation industry, which we all know is vital to keeping America competitive, profitable, and moving forward.

The two feed off of each other; we need to maintain a strong, well-trained and equipped U.S. Merchant Marine for our national defense and homeland security. And we need a strong national maritime industry in order to sustain a strong U.S. Merchant Marine.

Unfortunately, we are living in a time when the U.S. flag commercial fleet has shrunk to unprecedented low levels — quite likely the lowest in modern history.

That’s troubling enough, but what’s more concerning is that this has led to critical loss of jobs – and job opportunities — among those fully-qualified, licensed mariners we need to operate these vessels in peace – and in war-time.

Today, of some 41,000 [i]large deep-sea merchant ships of 1,000 gross tons or larger in the world’s registries, only 82[ii] are U.S.-flag ships in international trade. That is distressing.
This number is down from 183 large,[iii]oceangoing international U.S.- flag vessels in 1992.[iv]  That represents the loss of a quarter of our fleet! The decline in ships has caused a domino effect leaving us 2,000 short of the American merchant mariners needed, with the unlimited ocean licenses required to operate the large oceangoing vessels we would use in an international military conflict.[v]

That means that today we have about 11,000 U.S. mariners[vi] with unlimited credentials to operate these ships. Yet to crew our U.S. flag fleet in an extended crisis we’ll need well over 13,000, at a minimum.[vii]

Needless to say, without sufficient mariners to crew all of the sealift fleet, including our 61 government surge sealift assets, we simply cannot globally project and sustain our armed forces. We will cede our asymmetric advantage over every other country in the world, which is our ability to project and sustain combat power anywhere in the world.

We call it the away game, the ability to prevent a major conflict from landing on our shores. So, as you can see, this is a huge concern for our nation’s security.

It’s also a very complicated economic problem that we are working hard to solve in ongoing meetings with Congress and the White House. One thing is for certain — we need to shore up our mariner shortage. 

Three Pillars

There is a formula that has proven effective in protecting and bolstering the U.S. merchant marine – we call it the “Three Pillars,” and as Maritime Administrator I am working to champion all three.  In the run up to my confirmation hearings I met with many of the senators and staffers on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee who each grilled me on my priorities for MARAD.

At the top of my list was defending, and advocating for these Three Pillars — the Jones Act, our Maritime Security Program and Cargo Preference, all three of which – working together – help to keep our U.S. flag fleet in business so that we have enough mariners to sail in a crisis.

Most everyone in this room understands that the Jones Act is a backbone of the nation’s maritime industry.
Let me be clear —the Jones Act is not primarily an economic measure, nor is it primarily a trade measure. The Jones Act is fundamentally about defense and security. And it works. We need the Jones Act, and as Maritime Administrator, protecting and even strengthening it will continue to be a priority objective of mine moving forward.

MSP and Cargo Preference

The two other pillars of our merchant marine that require constant vigilance are the Maritime Security Program and Cargo Preference.  Working together with the Jones Act, they help ensure the survival of the fleet.
MSP currently provides $5 million in stipends for the 60 vessels enrolled to be on call in the U.S.-flag fleet.[viii] This helps them offset the higher costs of operating under the U.S. flag compared with, often, far cheaper international competitors. It was fully funded again in FY 18, which is great news for our fleet.

We are now working with USTRANSCOM and industry stakeholders on the next version of MSP to ensure it provides us the right kind of ships needed for military sealift.
As for Cargo Preference, my staff has been involved for weeks in discUSSions with the White House staff regarding the proper percentage needed.  Currently it stands at 50% for government cargos[ix] – and we’d like to see more — as would others.
But there are also those who’d like to see it go away all together. So that dialogue continues, and, with our secretary’s backing, MARAD is making our voice heard.

We will continually echo the message that all Three Pillars are necessary to maintain a strong, resilient U.S.-flag domestic and international fleet, that enables us to employ enough fully qualified and licensed mariners to crew them.

The Three Pillars allow us to take care of our mariners in peace time, so they are available in war-time. Honestly it’s a message that can’t be repeated too much. Our national defense and homeland security depend on all three working and thriving. And at present, they aren’t.
This is a huge concern for our national security. The economics of flying the U.S.-flag are simply making it difficult for American shippers to make a profit, compared with our less expensive foreign competitors.

And it has robbed us of the qualified mariners we need to sustain an extended engagement overseas. The public at large doesn’t get it, because in 2018 our ships, ports, and mariners are out of sight and out of mind.

Technology and cyber threats


At the same time, the technological challenges and cyber threats to our maritime industry are growing by the day.

The young mariners I’m talking about — the next wave of our merchant marine — need to step into this fast-evolving world with the right training and expertise. This demands that we adopt new training curricula at the nation’s maritime academies, union training schools and other maritime training institutions.

We cannot continue to cede technological advantages and market share to our international competitors.

The recurring concerns you hear raised regarding cyber threats are the ability to protect safe navigation and ship-handling, as well as to ensure seamless, resilient operation of the maritime transportation system.

The recent collisions at sea of manned ships like USS John S. Mccain and USS Fitzgerald this past summer — not to mention many other commercial ships throughout the year — sadly illustrate that it’s fairly easy to join two pieces of metal violently at sea.

As we enter the age of autonomous, unmanned vessels, we must as an industry quickly adapt, or ignore these innovations and risk being marginalized, or worse.
We’ve dealt with incidents related to hackers attempting to gain information or access to ships’ software or security systems via the internet. The results could have been disastrous.

This past July of 2017, a ransomware cyber-attack shut down a number of Maersk’s terminals and halted their ability to move cargo. It attacked their I.T. business systems and container terminal operating systems, and they couldn’t load their ships for two weeks. It reportedly cost Maersk $300 million.
The truth is, the maritime domain has only recently begun addressing what other industries have been spending multiple millions of dollars annually to prevent – sophisticated cyber-attacks.

We are still far behind in addressing these threats. A number of organizations, such as the American Bureau of Shipping, among others, are developing best practices for industry-wide cybersecurity practices. These efforts are helping us better identify cyber threats and vulnerabilities.  It’s important work!

At the Maritime Administration, our role is to serve as a clearing house facilitating strategic connections and communications between government and industry to address these problems.

Our Office of Maritime Security, as well as our website, offer a wealth of information about resources and networks to help assess your cyber-threat risks and find solutions to address them.

Perhaps the best advice we can offer is something that has been counter-intuitive and slow in coming to the maritime industry.

And that is to adopt the kind of effective data and information sharing relationships – even between competitors – that we see in practically every other major industrial sector.

Compile, assess, and share your threat information, because if they hit one of you, chances are they will hit all.

We need to be actively communicating with one another to protect the industry from cyber-attacks.

MARAD’s Office of Maritime Security works with the National Security Council staff, the U.S. Coast Guard, our partners within the Department of Homeland Security, and all of our maritime industry stakeholders. We help them keep close tabs on the unique cyber-security challenges and needs of the U.S. maritime industry.

We consider it a growing part of our mission to make our U.S. maritime industry partners aware of major cybersecurity threats, cybersecurity resources and cybersecurity best practices. So use us.
We have found that sharing cyber threats, cyber incidents and cyber resources between companies is required for effective threat awareness and mitigation.

Other critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S. do this very well. Even corporate competitors use anonymous – but shared — reporting mechanisms to alert one another to possible cyber-attacks through Industry Operated Information Sharing and Analysis Centers and Organizations (ISACS and ISAOS).

Maritime clearly has unique challenges. The GPS receivers we use to navigate our vessels are specific to the maritime industry. They are often orders of magnitude higher technically than other industries, making it harder to identify and understand vulnerabilities and risks.

You simply can’t apply the same models to maritime that work widely for other platforms.

The signals broadcast from the maritime GPS satellite constellation to GPS receivers on the ground, for example, are relatively weak. They are susceptible to interference and very vulnerable to cyber threats.

At MARAD we recognize that, while we can’t possibly defend against all threats around the globe, we can help industry identify known vulnerabilities, implement resilient processes, backup and recovery systems, and then put them into practice.

If you were to ask me, on a scale of one to ten, where we are in cyber-preparedness, I’d say a two or a three.

Again, I see our biggest assets as being the excellent young mariners coming into the industry from Kings Point and state maritime academies across the nation.

The academies are adding more cyber-related curricula and our young mariners are entering the workforce more literate than their predecessors. They better understand the technical challenges and cyber threats arrayed against our industry.

So in addition to employing enough mariners to man our U.S.-flag vessels, we urgently need them to have the technical know-how to deal with today’s threats.


Of course piracy remains a significant threat in certain hot spots globally. After a very bad few years of ship hijackings and ransoms, new industry counter-piracy “best management practices” have proven effective in reducing the piracy threat around the world. This includes the use of privately contracted armed security teams.

MARAD serves as a standing member of the U.S. government’s Counter Piracy Steering Group.

We work closely with the departments of state, defense, and homeland security, along with the intelligence community.
We also work closely with our international maritime security partners and other industry stakeholders to develop and advocate for effective counter-piracy measures and ensure that pirates are held accountable for their crimes.
This problem is likely to be with us for some time and we need to be diligent in reducing the risk to life, property, and cargo.

Finally, MARAD is also a participant in the federal government’s “Maritime Security Communications with Industry” (MSCI) alerts and advisories system.

This system, managed by the global Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) Coordination Center, with assistance from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), transmits alerts and advisories to ships at sea.

It helps to keep maritime industry stakeholders advised of maritime security threats as quickly as possible, and provides real-time recommendations to vessels through emails, NGA broadcasts, and online.

So that is an overview of how MARAD sees and responds to the major threats to our homeland security.

It’s a challenging environment that is getting more complex and demanding by the day. But maintaining a strong U.S. merchant marine, working together, sharing information on cyber security and other threats, and developing and adopting best maritime practices is the key.

I’m happy to answer questions. Our director of MARAD’s Office of Maritime Security, Cameron Naron, is also here with me today. He can also answer any questions you might have. Thank you again for having us today.

[i] MARAD Merchant Fleet of the World 2016 Statistics










[v] MARAD (Joel Szabat) written response to Bloomberg 12/11/18

[vi] MARAD (Joel Szabat) written response to Bloomberg 12/11/18

[vii] MARAD (Joel Szabat) written response to Bloomberg 12/11/18


[viii] MARAD FY 2017 Budget Enacted


[ix] Code of Federal Regulations




1. Reference: This advisory updates and supersedes U.S. Maritime Advisory 2017-005.

2. Issue: Piracy/Armed Robbery/Kidnapping for Ransom continues to serve as a significant threat to U.S. flagged operators with vessels transiting or operating in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).

3. Almost 100 reported incidents of piracy and armed robbery at sea occurred in the GoG region in 2017. Kidnappings for ransom (KFR), attacks, and boardings to steal valuables from the ships and crews are the most common types of incidents. While there were 29 kidnapping incidents in 2017, no tankers were hijacked for cargo theft (refined petroleum products) during this period. U.S. flagged operators with ships operating in or through the GoG Voluntary Reporting Area designated on Maritime Security Chart Q6114 at should transit with extreme caution and vigilance.

4. Most KFR operations in the GoG occur around the Niger Delta with vessels (tankers, tugs, offshore supply vessels, and cargo vessels) frequently being targeted due to their high value foreign crewmembers. Motherships have been used to support operations up to 150 nautical miles offshore. Criminals/armed KFR groups have been known to fire upon targeted vessels prior to attempting to board them. KFR groups generally kidnap two to six high value crewmembers to include the master, chief engineer, and any Western crewmembers. Kidnapped crewmembers are normally taken ashore in the Niger Delta region where KFR groups demand ransom payments in exchange for the safe return of the crewmembers.

5. Guidance: Additional information on this threat, including specific recommendations for vessels transiting the area, is available on the NATO Shipping Centre website at: U.S. flag vessels anchoring, transiting or operating in this region must comply with their U.S. Coast Guard approved Vessel Security Plans.

6. A Ship Hostile Action Report (SHAR) should be sent to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), in accordance with Pub 117, at the Submit Report link at as soon as possible following an incident or suspected activity (including apparent surveillance being conducted by small vessels/boats).

7. Mariners operating near this area are also advised to consult the Department of State Travel Warnings for this area at:

8. Contact Information: The Maritime Domain Awareness for Trade-Gulf of Guinea (MDAT-GoG) is operated by the navies of France and the United Kingdom. This center receives reports, shares important updates, provides guidance on vessel operating patterns, and reviews security risks with the Gulf of Guinea maritime community. Note that MDAT-GOG does not coordinate responses to vessels under attack. MDAT-GoG can be contacted via email at: or telephone at +33(0)2 98 22 88 88. For any questions about this advisory, contact the MARAD Office of Maritime Security at: Supplemental information may also be found on the MARAD Office of Maritime Security website at:

9. Cancellation of Prior Advisories: This message cancels U.S. Maritime Advisory 2017-005.

10. This Advisory will automatically expire on July 24, 2018.


Date of Speech: OCT. 18, 2017








OCT. 18, 2017

12:15 – 1:30 PM


Good afternoon, and thank for hosting me today. I bring you greetings from Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao, someone we are very lucky to have as our secretary and a strong supporter of the maritime industry. We have already worked together very well on a number of urgent matters impacting our industry since we both came on board.

As I look around, I see many good friends, some of them of long-standing, who know my story. For those who don’t, let me just say that like the members of this organization, I am also a very determined and passionate advocate and champion for the maritime industry.

I was destined for the life of a mariner almost from birth – I was born and grew up a block from the Atlantic Ocean on the Jersey Shore. I’ve been around water all of my life.

My love of the sea, of ships, and of the mariners who sail them, inspired my 34 years in the U.S. Navy, the last four of those as commander of the Navy’s Military Sealift Command. It is also why when I was asked to serve as Maritime Administrator, I said “absolutely.”

My upbringing, my family, my career path, gave me a deep respect for our nation’s maritime history. I treasure it because I know how important it has been historically to the growth of our nation.
And I’ve seen firsthand how it continues to be absolutely critical to our national security and economic strength.

That was born out on my first month on the job. As we know, it has been pretty busy with four powerful hurricanes wreaking havoc throughout Texas, Florida, the Gulf Coast, and the Caribbean.

There has been a lot going on.  It was a great way to get up to speed quickly.  I’ll have some specifics to talk about in that area a little later.

I also managed to get up to visit Kings Point four times in the first month because I wanted to get all the stakeholders – MARAD, the Supe and his staff, the faculty, the alumni, the parents, and the midshipman – all focused in on the same way ahead.

I invited the alumni back on campus, and told the regiment outright that the sexual assault/sexual harassment issues were largely in their hands to solve.  I’ve had some very good discussions with all involved and I think we have a clear understanding.

We were able to get $16 million reprogrammed to begin the overhaul of Samuels Hall into a state of the art simulation center.  Stay tuned for more news coming forward.  I’ve got this.

In the run up to my confirmation hearings I met with many of the senators and staffers on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee who were all interested in my priorities for the organization.

Near the top of my list was ensuring the readiness of the Ready Reserve Force — a key part of USTRANSCOM’s ability to execute its wartime mission of deploying and sustaining our nation’s combat forces. The RRF is an essential security asset for the nation.

Along with the civilian mariners of the Ready Reserve Force, I am determined that, both ship-wise and crew-wise, that fleet must be ready to go when needed. And I believe that by and large it is today.

But it’s getting more difficult each year as those ships continue to age.

I was standing in MARAD’s command center a few weeks ago when the FEMA rep came to ask if we could help with hurricane relief efforts as Harvey threatened Texas. And I had complete confidence in saying, “no problem – what do you need?”

Those devastating storms understandably presented some stiff challenges, but i couldn’t be more proud of the U.S. merchant mariners who crewed our vessels during and following this year’s extremely busy hurricane season.

In the midst of those disasters we had more RRF vessels activated for critical missions than we’ve had in a long time, both for hurricane relief, for potential storm evasion, and for existing USTRANSCOM missions around the globe.

MARAD activated four vessels, three school ships – the T/S Kennedy (Mass), the T/S Empire State (NY), and the T/S General Rudder (Texas) — and the Marine Corps Aviation Support Ship Wright. Wright has been in St. Thomas for the past three weeks delivering relief supplies and serving as base of operations and berthing facility for first responders.  She is due to depart tomorrow.
Kennedy and Empire State remain in San Juan, having offloaded their relief supplies. They are also providing a base of support for about 1200 first responders. To date more than 20,000 meals have been served aboard those vessels. It’s a good news story, and the schools are very proud of their contribution to the relief effort.

Another top priority I shared with the good senators was my strong belief in the necessity for the Jones Act.

Beginning just two days after Maria hit, U.S.-flag Jones Act ships began bringing cargo into Puerto Rican terminals faster than it could be distributed. We began building the “iron mountain.”  And that was in addition to supplies that had already been brought in for contingencies prior to the storm’s arrival.

And yet, those same shippers were vilified in the press for delaying the flow of relief supplies, and the Jones Act was once again cast as the cause of all the suffering.

A waiver was granted – 10 days (which has since expired) owing to a finding by the department of defense that it was “in the interest of national security.”

In that circumstance, the department of homeland security was required to issue the waiver – MARAD has no say in the matter.   The same series of events occurred in Florida following Hurricane Irma.  In both cases, a very small number of foreign flag vessels ultimately carried cargo.  In both cases, there was excess us flag capacity available.

As of the end of last week, the four U.S. companies providing service to Puerto Rico – Tote, Crowley, Trailer Bridge, and North American – were operating 24 Jones Act commercial, U.S.-flag vessels in that trade, bringing in much needed food, fuel, water, emergency and recovery supplies.

They served both FEMA’s cargo needs as well as the regular flow of needs for the economy – delivering goods from Walmart, Home Depot, other businesses and supermarkets. And they have capacity for more.

I watched Geraldo Rivera reporting from the shoreline near San Juan, talking about the devastation and the long lines and then saying: “But look out here; since the president waived the Jones Act, look at all the ships that are arriving now!”

He was pointing at one of Tote’s new Marlin Class container ships on its way in, and in the background was a triple-deck barge with “Crowley” painted on the side.  Amazing….

Let there be no ambiguity that the U.S. Merchant Marine stood tall in this crisis and flexed. It did its job despite all of the accusations and false narratives being thrown about in this town and throughout the media.

My sense is still that — other than a few notable vocalists — Congress is still firmly behind the Jones Act. But we cannot, and should not take that for granted. Clearly there is a need to tell the rest of the story about the criticality of the Jones Act.

It’s not news to most in this room, but it is the backbone of our shipbuilding and repair industry, supporting 110,000 employees who add $9.2 billion in income to the U.S. economy annually.

The Jones Act annually generates $10 billion dollars in freight revenue and provides as much as $355 million in federal and state tax revenue. This industry and supply chain is the same one we depend on to build and repair ships for our Navy.

The Jones Act is responsible for over 38,000 on-the-water jobs, and for $4.7 billion in wages, salaries and benefits.

Unfortunately, very few outside of our industry understand it. But the military relies on these U.S. civilian merchant mariners to crew both the commercial and government cargo ships needed in wartime.

This is a national security issue!

Our entire system of military deployment and sustainment depends on a viable, qualified, sufficient pool of talent.

This is the heart of my message. Whenever i talk about the U.S.-flag merchant marine – I acknowledge that the hardware — the need for modern ships — is certainly important. But it’s the “people.”

We need people to crew these ships.  And a study that we are just concluding for Congress shows that we are about 1200 mariners short of need for a full mobilization and sustainment.

Of course, all this is happening at a time when our nation is struggling just to keep enough ships in the U.S. Merchant Marine to employ sufficient numbers of qualified mariners to serve the nation’s defense and emergency-related sealift requirements.

Eighty-one deep-sea, internationally trading us flag vessels and 99 large Jones Act ships are what we are dealing with today.

The severity and duration of some of these most recent events underscores the importance of our national defense reserve fleet, Ready Reserve Force vessels, and maintaining an adequate pool of qualified, licensed mariners.

Moving forward, an important part of the equation will be recapitalizing some our aging RRF vessels, and acquiring funding for a national security multi-mission school ship.

Without replacement, we will not have — in the very near term — the empire state and the Kennedy to send to the rescue, or to serve as training platforms for cadets at mass or Fort Schuyler.  We have to be thinking about Maine and Cal too, as their ships are right at 30.

In the case of the sealift assets in the RRF, we are working on strategies with the Navy and with USTRANSCOM to accomplish this. We do have some friends on the hill, and I’m going to be working hard in next couple of years to add to — and build upon — our strategic sealift capability.

My friend Jim Caponiti was a long-time associate administrator at MARAD way before I came on board. Years ago, his staff worked hard to ensure the readiness of our RRF fleet in the years leading up to the second Iraq war and the war in Afghanistan.

They worked with USTRANSCOM to devise a strategy for recapitalization then – and came up solutions resulting in building or reconstructing 19 new vessels — significantly improving our sealift capacity. That work has served us well.

Today we’re faced with the same challenges — the growing need to modernize and recapitalize our fleet. We think we need to replace about 24 of the 46 sealift ships, and as I mentioned, we are looking at a variety of means to do that.

Turning briefly to the other two pillars of our merchant marine – which are also priorities of mine that I shared with the members — we need to keep working the Maritime Security Program and Cargo Preference.  Together with the Jones Act. They are absolutely critical to the survival of the fleet.

The MSP currently provides $5 million in stipends for the 60 vessels enrolled to be on call in the U.S.-flag fleet. We expect that program to be fully funded again in FY 18. It needs to be fixed for the future though.

Though the program is authorized through 2025 (funding for increased stipend is authorized through 2023), it is only appropriated year to year.

As we ask carriers to bring in new tonnage, we are forcing them to assume a substantial 30-year financial risk on the hope of an annual appropriation.  We are starting work with USTRANSCOM and industry on the next version of MSP to ensure it provides us the right kind of ships we need for sealift.

Finally, there is a lot of scuttlebutt around town about Cargo Preference.  My staff has been involved in weeks of discussions with the white house staff regarding the proper percentage needed.  Currently it stands at 50% for government cargos – and we’d like to see more. So would others.

But there are also those who’d like to see it go away all together. That discussion continues, and MARAD is making our voice heard with our secretary’s backing. Some of you may even have better insight than I, but we are doing our best to make the case.  More cargo equates to more ships which equates to a larger mariner pool.

As I’ve said, all three pillars are necessary to maintain a strong, resilient U.S.-flag domestic and international fleet, and to employ the mariners needed to crew them.

We need to take care of our mariners in peace time, so that they are available in war-time. That message can’t be emphasized enough, but it’s a message that hasn’t been reaching enough ears.

The challenge of getting people to see the “big picture” of the importance of our U.S. Merchant Marine to our national and economic security is never-ending.

For that reason, I appreciate the strong support that the propeller club has voiced for decades — for both the mariners and the industry they work in.

Your voice has never been more important and I personally appreciate your commitment to help the general public, and our elected representatives, understand what they are doing when they turn their backs on the U.S.-flag merchant marine.

Like our song says:  Heave ho my lads, heave ho, we’ve got a long, long way to go!  I’m glad to be sailing with you! Thank you and God bless.


William (Bill) H. Cahill joined the Maritime Administration, Office of Ship Operations, Division of Maintenance and Repair in October1993, as a general engineer after 25 years of commissioned service as a command grade officer in the U.S. Navy.

Bill became a member of the Senior Executive Service on May 17, 2015 when accepted the position of Deputy Associate Administrator for Federal Sealift on located in the Office of Strategic Sealift, Maritime Administration.

He serves as the principal deputy to the Associate Administrator for Strategic Sealift and is responsible for Office of Ship Operations which is responsible for the acquisition, operations, maintenance, and repair and logistics support of Government-owned or acquired merchant ships, including the maintenance, inspection, and reactivation programs of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) and the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) in support of defense sealift requirements. Functional areas include the following: Division of Maintenance and Repair; Division of Sealift Operations and Emergency Response; Division of Logistics Support; Division of Atlantic Operations; Division of Gulf Operations; and Division of Pacific Operations.

He temporarily served as the Acting, Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial which administers and implements a variety of programs related to the promotion of government-impelled cargo opportunities for U.S.-flag ships. In this capacity, he administered and coordinated sealift matters for the Maritime Security Program and the Voluntary lntermodal Sealift Agreement.

As the Director for Ship Operations in 2005, Bill was responsible for providing safe, ready and reliable strategic sealift ships to the Department of Defense and disaster recovery sealift vessels to Federal Emergency Management Association when such action is required and authorized by the U.S. Transportation Command (USTC}.   He administered and provided senior leadership and operational direction to maintain, repair and resupply 46 RRF ships, six maritime academy training ships, two Missile Defense Agency ships and three NDRF porting sites.  These DOT-owned ships are positioned at 18 ports geographically located on the East, Gulf and Pacific coasts.  Management oversight is exercised by a clear line of authority from my position as Director, Office of Ship Operations, through three area divisions.  In execution of this responsibility, he establishes plans, policy, management oversight and control of Agency vessels, including out-porting, maintenance and repair, logistics support, safety, and budget support.

Bill has responded to the White House requests to provide RRF ship assistance to the citizens of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, in Texas during Rita, in Haiti for the devastating earthquake of 2012, New York during Hurricane Sandy, in Texas for Harvey and the Caribbean during Irma. Under his direction ships are mobilized and sail, carrying relief supplies and possessing a capability to support emergency operations with messing and berthing, and an objective of restoring services to the cities.

This course of action has now evolved into a concept known as “Safe Store”, in which MARAD informs Federal, State and local governments that RRF ships are available to store supplies and equipment aboard ship during an emergency, thus facilitating first responder safe and easy access to the pre-positioned supplies.

Bill resides in Clifton, Virginia with his wife Missy.



Anthony Fisher, a member of the Senior Executive Service, became the Maritime Administration’s Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Sealift in March of 2016.

In this capacity, Mr. Fisher provides leadership and oversight to the Office of Sealift Support, which includes the Maritime Security Program (MSP), the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreements (VISA), the Vessel Transfer Program, and the Mariner Medals and Flag Programs; and to the Office of Cargo and Commercial Sealift, which administers Cargo Preference and oversees domestic shipping under the Jones Act.

Mr. Fisher comes to MARAD from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) where he developed transportation policy for the Agency’s food assistance programs. He previously served as the Congressional Liaison for President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative, and as a member of the Energy and Economic assistance Working Group (EEWG) responsible for negotiating the disablement of North Korea’s nuclear facilities and material nonproliferation efforts under the “Six-Party” diplomatic process.

Prior to joining USAID in 2005, Mr. Fisher represented U.S. and foreign government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and private sector clients as a charterer’s broker, serving as an intermediary between cargo and vessel owners in the negotiation of ocean transportation contracts. A licensed merchant marine deck officer, Mr. Fisher has sailed onboard U.S.-flag container, roll-on / roll-off, breakbulk, and tanker vessels.

He maintains a dual career as a Navy reservist, serving in various roles with a focus on improving the Navy’s understanding of the commercial maritime industry. During his naval career, he conducted multiple active duty tours, including a mobilization to U.S. Central Command Headquarters Staff in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

Mr. Fisher holds a Bachelor of Science in Marine Transportation from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and a Master of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College. He resides in Olney, MD, with his wife Jamie and their three children.



Date of Speech: SEPT. 6, 2017







SEPT. 6, 2017


Thank you Lauren. I’m proud to welcome our friends from Paducah to Washington, D.C. I send greetings from our new Transportation Secretary Elaine L Chao. I know you are all good friends with her and her husband, Senate Majority Leader McConnell.

I‘ve only been on board as Maritime Administrator for about three weeks, but I’ve heard about your community and its unique qualities.   And I’m very aware of the incredible maritime resources that you’ve worked to develop.

I have spent much of my life at sea, aboard military vessels, but with my roots in the merchant marine, I have a good appreciation for the importance of our nation’s inland waterways. I understand their importance to both our national security and economic prosperity – and know that Secretary Chao certainly does as well.

The fact is, Paducah is an historic, and important regional freight hub. We will continue to support your efforts to maximize these assets for your region and for our nation.

As I am sure you heard yesterday, we awarded a Small Shipyard Grant to National Maintenance and Repair so that they could fund a new lathe and plasma cutting machine.  We were very pleased to do so, and know that that grant will have a very positive effect on that company’s productivity.  They were one of 15 awardees from among 95 who applied.

For those who don’t know much about me or my background, I always start by telling folks that my very first breath of air was of salt air. I was born in Atlantic City, a block from the ocean.  I had my sea command when I was nine. I used to wear my dad’s old Navy cap around the neighborhood, and I spent my youth fishing and exploring the back bays of South Jersey, literally counting the days before I could head out to sea.

From that young age, I never wavered for one second in my desire to serve my country, or in my love for ships and mariners… First in the Navy, in a 34-year military career… and then supporting the military services and federal and commercial transportation industry as the President of the National Defense Transportation Association.

I have been the luckiest guy in the world to serve aboard some great ships, and work alongside many quality shipmates and commanders — too many to count. And to have the privilege of commanding the Navy’s Military Sealift Command.

Throughout that time, I have always stressed three leadership points as my steering stars:  take care of your people first — be a professional — and be a good shipmate.

It is how I intend to lead the maritime administration, and it is how I plan to engage with each of our strategic maritime partners, like the Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce. I regard all of you as a United States maritime community of the first order.

As I said, I’m learning about some of the things that make your community unique, and your region strategically important in our nation’s heartland.

Your Paducah-McCracken County Riverport is the strategic center of a very valuable and impressive complex of integrated ports, multi-modal connectors, and productive inland waterways. It is a model for the rest of the country.

Last year the former secretary of transportation designated the “Paducah-McCracken container on barge marine highway project,” which promises significant commercial and industrial benefits region wide. It will move cargo to-and-from the Gulf of Mexico year-round.

Our marine highway routes bring life – jobs, commerce, resources and resiliency– to dozens of communities across multiple states. They are vital arteries for domestic and international freight movement.

I’ve also learned that Paducah is home to more U.S.-flag inland waterway operators than anywhere else in the nation. That’s quite a distinction. And you have a great community college that provides coursework and hands-on mariner training. I was fascinated to hear that Paducah has been designated as a “Unesco City of Crafts and Folk Art,” and is known as a mecca for … quilting.

Lauren Brand tells me that there are some great opportunities for you to leverage this renowned art center hub with your intermodal freight assets. And possibly create some additional economic benefits for the community.

Our team is looking forward to the upcoming “River Strong” summit in Paducah, and with helping you network with potential manufacturers and business partners.

It is very clear to me that Paducah has a very bright future as a freight – and cultural – hub for a significant region of country. Congratulations to you all for demonstrating what can happen when you think out of the box, and work together to utilize your community and maritime resources for maximum impact.

Thank you for having me. I look forward to working together in years to come.