America’s future also hinges on our ability to move
goods to market — both at home and abroad.
However, our nation is currently transporting nearly
80 percent of all domestically moving goods on just 10
percent of our landside trade corridors. If congestion
and delays are a daily reality in 2015, imagine our
nation in 2045, when our population is projected to
increase by 70 million and our infrastructure will need
to handle 45 percent more domestic freight volume.
This is a reality not lost on the Maritime Administration (MARAD), and that is the reason we are supporting the Department of Transportation’s initiative to work
for a healthy modal balance — marine, air, rail and highway transit — one where our nation will fully utilize the
world’s greatest inland waterway network and the near-coastal routes between domestic ports.
MARAD is striving to give shippers and citizens more
transportation options, make more Marine Highways a
reality, and seamlessly connect our rivers and waterways
to landside corridors. Yet, we will not succeed without a
steady flow of U.S. Merchant Mariners to man the vessels, tugs, towboats and barges that our nation will need
to leverage in the future.
Without an ample mariner workforce, landside transportation infrastructure will be further stressed, boosting transportation costs, extending delivery and processing times for shippers, and raising prices for all
As we stare down an impending critical shortage of
mariners, we must acknowledge an indisputable truth.
Merchant Mariners were fundamental to our nation’s
rise to global prominence, and a sufficient number of
mariners will be the key to the next century of
American security and prosperity. Nevertheless, if
there is inaction on the part of stakeholders, industry
leaders and federal, state and local agencies, we can be
assured an insufficient number of mariners and limited
That is why it is essential we make the extra effort
to spread the good word about our industry, and
ensure the next generation understands the impor-
tance of the U.S. Merchant Mariner profession.
As former Congresswoman and Federal Maritime
Commissioner Helen Bentley so eloquently asks maritime stakeholders, “If we don’t sell America’s maritime industry, who will?” We should never underestimate the value of word of mouth — every mention
There are other ways to get involved, including
engaging with efforts to streamline the maritime transition process for veterans, including American Maritime
Partnership’s Military to Maritime program and the U.S.
Army’s Soldier for Life initiative.
These are organizations that both public and private
stakeholders can contribute their resources to, and I
fully encourage you to lend your time and voice to
The time to act is now! Once mariner jobs are lost,
they will not be coming back. A U.S. Merchant Mariner
cannot be created overnight, and it takes years to
become a Master or Chief Engineer. The bottom line is
that gaps or inadequacies in our mariner workforce
will take considerable time to fill.
Shortcomings in our workforce caused by inaction
will inch us ever closer toward near complete foreign
reliance for maritime services. That is not the future we
want to leave the next generation, and some policymak-ers will allow that if we do not make our voices heard.
So let’s not give them the excuse! ;
Paul N. “Chip” Jaenichen, who retired from the Navy after
serving 30 years as nuclear-trained submarine officer, was confirmed as the maritime administrator in July 2014. He joined
the Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration as
deputy maritime administrator in July 2012.
“A Point of View” is a Seapower forum wherein experts and
analysts express their views on a variety of thought-provoking
topics. The views expressed here are the author’s and not necessarily those of the Navy League of the United States.
“It is only through the services of U.S. Merchant Mariners that our nation can
continue to project and sustain our troops, support our allies, and defend freedom and democracy throughout the world. If we do not maintain sufficient
numbers of qualified and experienced mariners, we will be saying “goodbye” to
these services, compromising the future of our sealift and global-projection
capabilities, and putting America at risk.”