U.S. maritime ports are critical links in the U.S. domestic and international trade supply chain, serving as the hubs
where cargoes are transferred between oceangoing vessels, barges, trucks, trains and pipelines. The goal of the
StrongPorts Program is to support efforts to improve infrastructure in ports throughout the United States and ensure
they are capable of meeting future freight transportation
needs. By addressing planning, stakeholder engagement,
operational and capital financing and project management,
this program will provide support to ports working to further
increase their capacity and efficiency.
Cargo Preference and the Jones Act
Privately owned U.S.-flag commercial vessels are registered in the United States, crewed by U.S. citizens, and subject
to U.S. laws and regulations. These commercial vessels must
meet strict guidelines for construction, maintenance, environmental and safety standards, resulting in increased operating
costs. Moreover, American Merchant Mariners are subject to
full federal, state, and local taxation, unlike many of their
To help these vessels compete in the world market, and to
provide an incentive for owners to remain under U.S. registry, Congress established a series of cargo preference laws to
defray some of the higher operating costs associated with the
U.S.-flag registry. These laws, the first of which was established in 1904, require that at least 50 percent — and, in the
case of the military, 100 percent — of government-sponsored
cargo shipped internationally be carried by U.S.-flag vessels.
The Jones Act requires vessels engaged in domestic waterborne trade to be owned by U.S. citizens, built in the United
States and crewed by American mariners. It’s estimated that
this requirement supports nearly a million private-sector jobs
both at sea and in America’s ports and shipyards. As such, it’s
a critical component to the long-term sustainability of the
U.S. maritime sector. Additionally, it provides customs and
law enforcement services with a layer of security by preventing an influx of foreign vessels from transiting internal U.S.
The Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National
Defense Authorization Act of 2015 demonstrated the national
security importance of the Jones Act, stating that “coastwise
trades laws [such as the Jones Act] promote a strong domestic
trade maritime industry, which supports the national security
and economic vitality of the United States.”
The Jones Act requirement to build vessels in the United
States for coast-wise trade is critical to our commercial ship-
building industry. The nation’s commercial shipbuilding and
repair capacity support national security and economic vitality
of the United States. As an advocate, MARAD administers the
Federal Ship Financing Program (loan guarantee) to incentiv-
ize shipbuilding in the United States, as well as taxed deferred
programs, Capital Construction Fund and Construction Reserve
Fund. MARAD also administers a Small Shipyard Grant
program, when funded. The active support of MARAD pro-
motes growth for a modern U.S.-flag fleet and shipyards.
The maritime administrator is the head of MARAD and
advises and assists the Secretary of Transportation on commercial maritime matters, the U.S. maritime industry and
strategic sealift. The maritime administrator also maintains
liaison with public and private organizations concerned with
the U.S. maritime industry.
Since the problem of piracy in the Horn of Africa (HOA)
region began to escalate in the late summer of 2008, MARAD
has been involved in working with other federal agencies
(particularly the U.S. Coast Guard and the Department of
State) to address the risks and develop strategies to protect
commercial shipping. These efforts have included frequent
interaction with the U.S.-flag maritime industry, labor and
with international shipping associations. MARAD staff members serve on the U.S. delegation to the International Maritime
Organization’s Maritime Safety Committee where piracy issues
are deliberated and guidance is developed.
MARAD, with assistance from MSC, has developed an
assistance team to visit U.S.-flag merchant ships in port to
assess their physical security vulnerabilities to piracy and
provide the ships with “best practices” against piracy. The
Anti-Piracy Assistance Team (APAT) includes a representative
from MARAD and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service’s
Security Training and Assessment Team. More than 100 APAT
visits have been conducted since April 2009.
Maritime Workforce Development
MARAD supports programs to improve the education,
training, health, welfare and safety of U.S. citizen seafarers.
Federal support of mariner education helps ensure highly
skilled, well-qualified personnel are credentialed annually and
available to augment the nation’s pool of qualified Merchant
Mariners. These mariners are needed to safely operate U.S.-flag vessels that contribute to the economic competitiveness
of the nation and perform critical maritime-related functions
during a national emergency.
MARAD operates the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
(USMMA) and provides support to the six state maritime
academies that provide students, from across the socioeconomic spectrum, the education and necessary training
to become U.S. Coast Guard-credential officers in the U.S.
Merchant Marine. USMMA is one of the five federal services
academies. The academy’s mission directly contributes to
national defense and supports the nation’s economic competitiveness by contributing to a viable and dynamic Merchant
MARAD provides the state maritime academies with a
training ship and several types of financial support, including annual direct support, Student Incentive Program, annual
training ship fuel assistance payments, and annual training
ship maintenance and repair.