store emergency equipment when
Hurricane Rita went through.
And we’re going to continue
being the promotional agency for
the U.S. maritime industry. We
want our programs to work better
together. Right now, I think they’re
fairly stove-piped and we’re trying
to make sure we deal in concert
with shipbuilding programs, carrier support programs and issues like
We want to increase American
presence in every level of the maritime and marine transportation
industry, whether it’s dealing with
finance or the operation and management of vessels and, most importantly, the use of American crews.
We’re starting to see the beginning of a worldwide shortage of trained mariners. We’ve got an increase in
demand and a falling supply of trained officers.
What can MARAD do to increase the force of
CONNAUGHTON: The Maritime Administration oversees the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy and supports
the six state maritime schools, which are experiencing
a fairly large increase in enrollment. The New York
maritime school has had increases of almost 50 percent. Our staff is conducting a survey to find out what
is happening in the work force and whether this problem is short term or long term. I’d like to have the
report by the middle of 2007.
MARAD requires U.S. carriers to follow rules
that tend to drive up the cost of operations,
making them less competitive in world markets.
There is the use of U.S. shipyards for vessel
repair, for example, and strictures against foreign work crews aboard ships for maintenance
and repair. Do you foresee any change?
CONNAUGHTON: There are obviously differences of
opinion within the industry as to which sector is to
benefit from some of these requirements. Is their purpose to support the shipyards or the carriers? In the
long term, these types of conflicts do not do either side
of the industry much good.
You have said that the future military will rely
more on commercial transportation. So if congestion and labor shortages are bad now, they
are destined to get worse, correct?
CONNAUGHTON: Yes. The current chief of naval
operations talks about a 1,000-Ship Navy. A big part of
that is to take advantage of merchant fleets and naval
fleets from around the world.
We want to make sure that on the American commercial side those assets are available. Even if the vessels might not be American flag, we could end up having American crews onboard, and I think there are
some great opportunities.
We’re working with some companies right now
and may have some announcements shortly that
they’ve committed to start putting Americans on
some of their vessels. Increasing the pool of American
mariners over the long term is quite beneficial to the
One of your priorities is port congestion and
related issues. What is your approach?
CONNAUGHTON: We’re seeing a greater concentration of trade moving through a certain number of
mega-ports, which feed into a rail and road system that
is already congested. The ports at Long Beach, Calif.,
and Los Angeles today move around 15 million containers a year. They project the capacity in 20 years to
move 45 million containers. But will the rail and road
networks be able to sustain that?
We can make labor and efficiency improvements. But
it’s no good if all we do is simply move the bottleneck off
the pier and down the road a bit. We need a national port
strategy. Can we get port, rail, truck and carrier industries together to come up with an agreed upon set of
projects that we can present to Congress?
Is that politically feasible? Some of those interests are competitive.
CONNAUGHTON: I’ll give you a great example. The
Heartland Project is about to get under way in West