The once powerful fleet of the US merchant marine is on the verge of collapse under the weight of high labour costs, federal zigzag policies and intense competition from abroad, damaging the ability of the United States to be the only country in the world with the power to supply and sustain a long-distance war.
The US merchant marine, according to a Task & Purpose publication accessed by MundoMarítimo, has decreased from 1,288 international units in 1951 to 81 today. “It’s a matter of national security,” said Maritime Administration chief Mark H. Buzby, a retired Rear Admiral of the Navy.
The US Merchant Navy transports cargo in peacetime and becomes an Assistant to the Department of Defense in times of war to deliver troops and supplies to conflict zones since the Navy itself does not have enough ships to handle a mission of large-scale supply
Already in the Gulf War of 1991, the United States had to resort to foreign ships to move equipment, but the crews of 13 of the 192 foreign-flagged vessels carrying cargo rebelled and forced their ships to move away from the conflict zone…
US troops stationed in the Middle East and Afghanistan still receive much of their supplies through US-flagged vessels. UU Despite the use of high-altitude aircraft, deep-sea vessels remain crucial for military mobility in the 21st century.
Vessels with the US flag UU they have robust crews with a minimum of 22 members, more than ships with flags of Liberia, Panama or the Marshall Islands, which have smaller endowments and remain at sea for longer periods
US shipping companies retreated as global ocean trade increased twentyfold and the US flagged ships. UU currently they transport only 2% of the US $ 1.8 trillion in goods and materials that transit through the ports of the country each year.
US shipping companies say they can not cope with the increasingly low costs of foreign competitors from nations that subsidize shipbuilding, allow “skeletal” crews aboard the ships and offer very low wages.
Currently, around 50,000 transatlantic merchant ships sail the seas and EE. UU they are not even among the top 20 maritime countries in the world in terms of gross tonnage.
US shippers cite the hypercompetitive global market as a factor in the decline of the fleet. But they also say that they have been harmed by fluctuating government policies, the drastic reduction in food aid shipments abroad and the abrupt reduction of US military forces globally after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989.
Specialists point out that the problem is not just about a decrease in the number of vessels. As the US maritime industry UU it is reduced, so does the number of seafarers, who find fewer jobs and stay in them for fewer years, which allows mandatory periodic licenses to expire once they leave. This makes emergency calls to endowments problematic. “We will run out of people before we run out of ships,” Buzby said.
Commercial vessels with the US flag UU they are the final component, but equally critical, in sustaining a battle abroad. Of the 81 deep-sea commercial flag vessels in the US UU In the Merchant Marine, approximately 60 vessels participate in the Maritime Safety Program, which grants them an annual stipend of US $ 5 million to be ready in a matter of days if they are called to the service.
Over the years, lawmakers have developed a series of incentives to keep the merchant navy afloat, including cargo preference laws that mandate that 100% of the Pentagon’s cargo be delivered to ships flying the flag. USA US, as well as all the resulting burden of government loans or credit guarantees. There is another fee for other shipments from the US government. The US, if the shipping rates are considered fair and reasonable. In a war, many of these vessels with the US flag UU they would be subtracted from civil activity.
Another regulation, known as the Jones Act, requires that goods moved in US waters. UU or between their territories they must be transported in ships built by the US. UU owned by EE UU And served by US personnel. UU Puerto Ricans, furious at the delays in the arrival of relief supplies in the wake of Hurricane Maria last September, blamed the Jones Act for the exorbitant shipping costs. The White House finally renounced the Jones Act for 10 days.
In addition, shippers have expressed frustration with changes to regulations introduced by legislators, making their own long-term planning difficult. In 2012, Congress reduced the quota of vessels flying the flag of the USA. UU From 75% to 50% for US food aid. UU To the exterior. At the end of 2015, Congress lifted a four-decade ban on the export of US energy production. UU The measure allowed foreign vessels to load their warehouses with US crude or liquefied natural gas (LNG) and export it.
Source: Mundo Marítimo