The MSP fleet provides employment for 2,400
Merchant Mariners and 5,000 shore-side maritime professionals each year. Maritime officials have contended
that the MSP needs to be funded at $5 million per ship.
Jaenichen said the standing law had MSP funding
remaining around $3.1 million through 2018.
“Clearly, Congress saw that they needed to bolster it
to $3.5 million per ship. They recognize the importance in the MSP,” he said.
James Caponiti, president of the American Maritime
Congress, said the MSP funding portion of the MARAD
budget was the biggest concern for his agency.
“I am not blaming the administration, as I know
how the budget process works, but [the authorized
level] of funding is not in there, and we will fight to
make sure we reach that appropriations level,” he said.
Caponiti, who worked at MARAD for more than three
decades, was concerned that the MSP funding level would
remain at $3.1 million per year because the Omnibus Appropriations bill was signed in December.
“It’s pretty disappointing, but it makes us go forward and fight this,” he said.
The budget also asks for $20 million to support con-
tinued obsolete vessel disposal actions, with priority
emphasis on the removal of the three remaining ships
in the Suisan Bay Reserve Fleet to meet a California
Court Consent Decree.
The MARAD budget request also would alter the
Food Assistance Program by allowing flexibility — 25
percent of total budget — for local and regional purchases, rather than U.S.-grown commodities, to reduce
the cost of the program and make it more efficient.
MSP vessels are among those used to transport the
food aid as a means of keeping them active during
times of peace.
As part of the initiative, $25 million is included to
provide funds to preserve mariner employment on
commercial vessels of the United States and identify
other innovative means to encourage retention of
mariners and vessels.
The budget proposal also includes $6 million to
fund an independent requirements and alternatives
analysis for the National Security Multi-Mission
Vessel/School Ship Replacement Program. The ships
are replacing the aging fleet of training ships provided
to the six state maritime academies that produce 70
percent of the U.S. unlimited tonnage open ocean-licensed mariners annually. The average age of these
ships is 35 years.
Jaenichen said he feels pretty good about the budget
and admits his agency is making inroads to lawmakers
to show the importance of the maritime industry.
“There are not a lot of federal agencies that can say
they have had a year-over-year increase in their budget
of late,” he said.
Some of the biggest takeaways he has from the
budget is the strong emphasis MARAD continues to
have on the environmental side, including looking into
liquefied natural gas ships and leading the way for
projects with hydrogen fuel technology.
MARAD also has disposed of 214 ships in a responsible way, Jaenichen said.
As the Panama Canal expansion project nears its
completion, U.S. ports have spent years getting ready
to accommodate the larger ships that can pass through
the canal. The administrator said this budget continues
to help ports prepare for the future.
John Young, director of freight and transporting policy for the American Association of Port Authorities,
would like to see more investments being made for
ports in the budget.
“Ports are making nearly triple the investments for
inside-the-gate infrastructure, and that’s a message we
will continue to make to lawmakers,” he said.
These investments include upgrades to terminals
for cargo carriers. MARAD will provide grants to select
ports over the fiscal year to work on such projects.
“We are making sure the operations inside ports are
adequate,” Young said. ;
The Maritime Security Program maintains a modern U.S.-flag fleet providing military access to vessels, such as the
Maersk Line Limited container ship Maersk Wisconsin
shown here, and vessel capacity, as well as a global intermodal transportation network. The 60 ships enrolled in the
program would be funded at $3.1 million each under the
Maritime Administration’s fiscal 2017 budget proposal.