National Maritime Day offers a moment
to celebrate a bright past, prepare for a brighter future
Wednesday, 23 May 2012 | 00:00
From America’s earliest days, we have been a maritime nation. Maritime trade was critical to our initial growth from a few isolated outposts into a thriving land, and shipbuilding was one of the first manufacturing industries in our original 13 colonies.
We are bordered by two oceans and connected by a vast network of inland waterways. So, we depend on our Merchant Mariners to support our economy and protect our nation. As Maritime Administrator David Matsuda said at today's festivities, "Mariners are the people who move American products throughout the world. Mariners are the people who shepherd American military personnel and equipment to where our country needs them most."
In peacetime, the men and women of the US maritime industry work on tugs and ships, in shipyards and at ports. Their hard work ensures delivery of goods around the country and exports to other nations both essential parts of a strong economy. In fact, the ports of Long Beach and Los Angeles employ twice as many men and women as the Hollywood entertainment industry.
When called upon to support our nation’s military operations, America's mariners don't shy away from danger. During World War II, nearly 215,000 Merchant Mariners served our nation, and nearly 1 in 30 gave their lives in that effort. Kings Point was the only US service academy to lose students in the line of duty 142 of them. And our nation remains ever grateful for their sacrifice
In recent years, our merchant fleet has delivered essential resources to battlefields around the world.
And, during national and international emergencies, our Merchant Mariners are also on the scene, helping with rescues, recovery, and rebuilding.
With that strong, brave, and proud tradition at its foundation, President Obama understands that our shipping industry is a vital building block of an America built to last. Today more than ever, our marine transportation system is crucial to our economic well-being and security.
Our nation is growing rapidly. In the next 40 years, the United States will be home to 100 million additional people the equivalent of another California, Texas, New York and Florida. As we work to modernize a crumbling and overcrowded transportation infrastructure and accommodate this growing demand, we're counting on our shipping industry.
The President and I know we can use our marine transportation system to connect American businesses with efficient, fast, and cost-effective ways of moving products, parts, and supplies. Our Maritime Administration knows it, too. And, when it comes to funding projects, this Administration has put maritime on equal footing with other transportation modes.
As part of our TIGER grant program, port projects competed with roads, rails, and runways. And through the first three rounds of awards, we have invested more than $276 million dollars in 17 different ports. These projects will improve the movement of American goods, an important step in doubling exports under President Obama’s National Export Initiative.
TIGER has also led to key investments in America’s Marine Highways. California's Green Trade Corridor, for example-a waterborne shipping route between Oakland, Stockton and West Sacramento-is creating an environmentally beneficial alternative to conventional freight and cargo movement in a busy, congested region.
We're also working to make a green industry even greener by recycling obsolete vessels, combating invasive species, and testing new biofuels.
And through Title XI loan guarantees, we've financed more than half a billion dollars of shipbuilding projects in American shipyards.
It's an exciting time for the US maritime industry. So, as we commemorate the sacrifices and accomplishments of our predecessors, let's honor that proud history by doing what we can to carry America's strong maritime legacy forward for even greater progress and prosperity.
Source: US Department of Transport