The International Propeller Club of the United States on April 1 presented U.S. Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR) with the annual Salute to Congress Award for his strong and consistent support of the U.S. Merchant Marine, the Jones Act and U.S. maritime industry.
During an award ceremony conducted online due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, former Maritime Administrator Rear Adm. Mark Buzby (U.S. Navy, retired), who recently retired from the Maritime Administration, was honored as the Propeller Club's Maritime Person of the Year.
Rep. DeFazio stressed the need for Congress to provide support for the maritime industry as the country begins the economic recovery process because of the deadly virus.
"We are a maritime nation," he said. "We have to rebuild this maritime industry and we need to rebuild it in a robust way...This is about really good jobs. It's about national security and it's absolutely critical to the future of our nation."
Rep. DeFazio, the chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee in the House of Representatives, pointed to the Harbor Maintenance Tax and other infrastructure funding mechanisms as crucial to improving the nation's ports and harbors. During the ceremony, Rep. DeFazio discussed his interest in providing COVID-19 emergency funds for ports and his plans to introduce a bill that would include $17 billion in infrastructure improvements to allow ports to better compete in a global market and accommodate larger more advanced ships.
"The world is leaving us behind in the dust or the crumbling concrete...and in the obsolete ports that can't handle the new categories of ships. We just cannot miss this opportunity," he said.
While answering questions from online attendees, Rep. DeFazio said there is reason for optimism in maritime because people are "beginning to wake up" about the importance of U.S. shipping because of its role in maintaining vital cargo transportation services during the early days of COVID-19 when many other sectors in the nation came to a screeching halt.
"I think people are waking up to the idea that we need made in America things, including ships, and we need to be much more self-sufficient in a world economy, which goes to having a very robust maritime industry," he said. "And not just a one-way maritime industry that is bringing all this stuff into the country, but a maritime (industry) that is once again distributing made in America, highest quality products around the world."
Buzby applauded the maritime industry for its toughness and perseverance during the pandemic, noting the industry did not receive any federal COVID-19 relief funding, but still continued to keep the supply chain in operation, delivering goods and services across the nation.
"This industry didn't get a nickel of any of that relief so we kind of had to figure out how to do it ourselves," he said. "We were able to persevere and get through it. We were able to keep the goods flowing and never stopped when other industries were somewhat brought to their knees."
He said none of it would have been possible without dedicated work and major sacrifices from the men and women that make up the U.S. Merchant Marine.
"It was on the backs of a lot of people working on the piers and on ships that went months without having been relieved, and that really truly says a lot about the American mariner," Buzby said.