The following article was released by the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO.
Acknowledging the work done collectively by maritime unions, companies, ports, shipyards, military and government, U.S. Maritime Administrator Mark Buzby saluted the work of the U.S.-flag maritime industry to keep commerce moving during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic.
Buzby addressed the Washington, D.C., Propeller Club via a video conference call on July 2.
"I am very proud of this industry," Buzby said. "It speaks well to the teamwork."
The retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral noted the constant contact with all involved parties throughout the crisis. Among those taking part in Maritime Administration (MarAd) calls have been the unions and shipping companies with representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Transportation Command, State Department and Department of Homeland Security among others. He pointed out these calls helped "build trust" among the various parties.
Buzby commended the efforts of American mariners, some of whom had to remain aboard vessels longer than expected because of restrictions implemented by foreign countries that impeded crew changes.
"This is a tribute to our carriers to pretty much stay in the game," he added.
While listing how cargo for U.S.-flag carriers has declined during the pandemic, he declared, "The future will be better. We have bottomed out."
The administrator updated the Propeller Club on efforts to recapitalize the nation's Ready Reserve Force (RRF). He said plans are for MarAd to purchase two ships for the fleet before the end of the year. He gave a shoutout to U.S. Reps. Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Rob Wittman (R-VA) for their work in Congress to address the sealift situation.
"We are shining a spotlight on this issue. It is a very critical part of our national defense," Buzby stated.
He praised the RRF crews for keeping the current fleet, whose average ship age is 47 years, up and running.
Buzby also discussed the new multi-mission vessels to be built by the union-contracted Philly Shipyard for use as training ships by the nation's maritime academies.