U.S. flag shipping interests called on the federal government to strictly enforce cargo preference laws.
Testifying before the U.S. House Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Subcommittee on behalf of the USA Maritime, former Maritime Administrator William Schubert said "perhaps nothing is more important to the viability of the privately owned U.S. flag commercial fleet than adequate cargo preference enforcement. MarAd must substantially improve its cargo preference efforts to prevent a significant decrease in the number of vessels under U.S. flag.
"Almost exactly two years ago — on Sept. 30, 2011 — MarAd held a listening session on what it could do to improve its administration of cargo preference," he continued. "Industry commenters universally demanded that MarAd do its job and promulgate regulations to implement the 2008 cargo preference amendment enacted by Congress as soon as possible. Now it is two years later, and nothing has been done. The industry can no longer wait for MarAd and implores this subcommittee and the full committee to use its influence to institute the long overdue regulations."
His comments echoed remarks by Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the subcommttee who said that in 2008, Congress strengthened MarAd's ability to "properly enforce our cargo preference laws. Unfortunately, the administration continues to drag their feet and refuses to promulgate rules to implement the law. Meanwhile, the number of ships flying the U.S. flag in overseas trade continues to dwindle.
"The inaction on implementing the 2008 law," he added, "coupled with the president’s misguided efforts to restructure the Food for Peace Program, has left me baffled. It would appear by their actions that this administration simply does not understand or care about the critical role the U.S. flag industry plays in expanding our economy and ensuring our national security."
Acting Maritime Administrator Paul Jaenichen said the agency is "engaged in an intensive rule-development process" to update the cargo rules.
"I acknowledge the frustration that has been expressed about the delay in implementing this rule," he said. "However, significant efforts have been put into a proposed rulemaking by the Department of Transportation and MarAd over the past several years. These efforts will inform and guide the proposed rule MarAd currently is drafiting." - Chris Dupin