ANALYSTS SAY NEW ADMINISTRATION MAY PROVE
A STRONG ADVOCATE FOR U.S. MARITIME INDUSTRY
By OTTO KREISHER, Special Correspondent
With the global economic
slump threatening to curtail the growth in international trade and domestic shipping,
the U.S. maritime industry is looking
to the newly installed Obama administration and the now heavily
Democratic Congress for policy, funding and tax initiatives that will help.
The industry hopes that a massive
economic stimulus package, which is
expected to focus heavily on infrastructure improvements, will include
investments in ports, inland waterways and other facilities supporting
Industry experts also raised the
possibility of action to encourage
more commercial shipbuilding, in
addition to more construction of Navy and Coast
Guard vessels, to bolster that struggling industrial base.
These goals are drawing support from some influential members of Congress and public officials. But perhaps even more encouraging for the maritime interests is
that “you have an incoming president who has expressed
support for many of the policies the industry relies on,”
said maritime analyst Darrell Conner, a government
affairs counselor with Washington law and government
policy firm K&L Gates.
An Aug. 28 letter sent by then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to Seafarers International Union
President Michael Sacco, “lays the foundation for their
policies on the maritime industry,” Conner said.
“America needs a strong and vibrant U.S.-flag
Merchant Marine,” Obama wrote, and assured Sacco that
Vital Interests at Home
During his campaign, President Barack Obama, in a letter to Seafarers International Union President Michael Sacco, said, “America
needs a strong and vibrant U.S.-flag Merchant Marine.” Maritime
industry experts say change is expected on several fronts.
■ A massive economic stimulus package could include money for
ports, inland waterways and other facilities that support maritime
■ A letter to Obama penned by 18 senators urged him to support
“a robust shipbuilding budget and policies” for military and commercial vessels.
■ Planned work on highways and railroads could result in improved
access to maritime facilities.
the union “can continue to count on me to support the
Jones Act, which includes the Passenger Services Act, the
continued exclusion of maritime services from international trade agreements” and the Cargo Preference laws.
And to ensure the armed forces have the supplies
they need when they need them, Obama said his
administration “will solidly support the continuation
of the Maritime Security Program.”
Conner cited the letter during a briefing to industry
executives late last year by maritime experts at K&L
Gates. The experts said the changes in tax laws expected in the new Congress also could contain provisions
that would prove beneficial to the industry.
But they noted that the Democrats’ expected focus
on environmental and energy issues could have positive or negative effects for maritime interests. The one
As container ships are offloaded at the Port of Los Angeles, foreground, other merchant ships at anchor await entry
into the port, which handles the most container volume in the United States. Ports, inland waterways and other facilities
that support maritime activities, as well as the infrastructure that provides access to them, could benefit from the massive economic stimulus package expected to emerge early this year.