A Momentous Year for MARAD

A Momentous Year for MARAD

Posted by Paul "Chip" Jaenichen

With over 95% of all U.S. foreign trade by volume moving across oceans onboard ever-increasing sized vessels, barge tows transporting millions of tons of coal and other bulk commodities on our inland waterways, and government-owned and commercial vessels carrying U.S. military equipment and supplies to and from overseas contingencies, our Nation’s reliance on marine transportation is stronger today than it has ever been.

As the agency within the DOT that develops and promotes American marine transportation and the U.S. Merchant Marine, the Maritime Administration—or “MARAD”—works diligently to ensure the dependability and security of this system along with its intermodal connections for the movement of people and freight. With 2014 coming to a close, I have been impressed with my team and proud to look back on what has been a highly productive year for MARAD.  Most importantly, we delivered results on a number of measures to accomplish our mission.

This was a banner year for MARAD in maintaining and managing the Ready Reserve Force (RRF) with our commercial ship managers and maritime labor union partners. Although the primary purpose of RRF vessels is to support the rapid overseas deployment and projection of U.S. military forces, we proved just how versatile these vessels truly are.  For instance—through vast U.S. interagency and international collaboration, the M/V CAPE RAY was converted into a chemical weapons destruction facility to support the historic at-sea neutralization of the Syrian Government’s declared chemical weapons stockpile. In addition, both the M/V CAPE RISE and M/V CAPE WRATH deployed with a range of vital U.S. Army cargoes—everything from Humvees to water purification equipment—to Liberia to help fight the ongoing Ebola outbreak.

With significant stakeholder engagement during two symposiums—one in January focusing on the U.S. flag fleet trading internationally and the second in May focusing on the domestic fleet, ports and shipbuilding—MARAD also made real progress on the development of a National Maritime Strategy.

Over the past 12 months, we achieved strong progress on the capital improvements and infrastructure advancements at the MARAD-managed U.S.  Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). Working with the Superintendent and Academy leadership, MARAD and the Academy met and exceeded all of the goals we established for the year, including renovating barracks and the dining hall, completely rebuilding Mallory Pier, and welcoming the new T/V KINGS POINTER to the Academy. MARAD contributed immensely to these efforts, and will continue working hard to ensure Academy facilities support the high-caliber education and training of future licensed officers in the U.S. Merchant Marine and our Armed Forces.

All throughout 2014, MARAD persisted with its unyielding support of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act), which ensures vessels operating in domestic commerce are U.S.-built, -crewed and -owned. The Jones Act was and continues to be, especially this year, a driving force behind the tremendous renaissance of the domestic maritime industry. In fact, MARAD’s Title XI Ship Financing Office made numerous program reforms to support this progress, streamlining and increasing the efficiency of the full faith and credit guarantee review process, and eliminating months from the timeline to review and approve applications.

There is no question, 2014 has been a year of great achievement for MARAD with regards to the RRF, USMMA and Title XI as well as many other initiatives and programs that I will highlight in later blog posts. To put a “cap” on this great year—while MARAD is proud of what we accomplished in 2014, we also know that our Nation’s dependence on marine transportation is only going to grow and we are eager to get moving on our goals for 2015.