David T. Matsuda, head of the Maritime Administration, plans to leave the agency at the end of the month.
In a memorandum sent to industry leaders to thank them for their assistance during his tenure, Matsuda said he "recently made the difficult decision to move on from my position at the
Maritime Administration later this month."
He added: "Taking the
helm as acting administrator will be Deputy Administrator Chip
Jaenichen. He and the rest of our team are dedicated to ensuring a
smooth transition of agency leadership."
“Dave was a valuable member of my team,” said Transportation Secretary
Ray LaHood in a statement. “I’m particularly proud of his work to improve federal
maritime education programs and revitalize the U.S. Merchant Marine
Rep. Janice Hahn, D-Calif., co-chairman of the congressional PORTS Caucus, said he had been a "steadfast advocate for our nation’s ports" and thanked him for meeting "stakeholders in my district from port officials to shippers to longshoreman to hear their concerns and share his expertise in improving the goods movement and investing in port security."
Because of the higher cost of U.S.-flag crews (and in the case of so-called Jones Act domestic trades U.S.-built ships) U.S.-flag carriers have difficulty competing in international trades against ships employing lower-cost crews. With the wind-down of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there is less demand for their services by the military, which in most cases must use U.S.-flag ships.
Some of the higher cost of operating U.S. tonnage is offset by a program called the Maritime Security Program, which provides 60 ships with subsidies to offset their higher operating costs. MarAd pointed to Matsuda's advocacy to extend MSP for 10 years as one of his major accomplishments.
But Matsuda also has critics who questioned whether he and the
Obama administration have done enough to promote U.S.-flag shipping.
They point to:
- Waivers of the Jones Act granted in 2011 that allowed foreign flag-ships to carry oil released from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve. (Waivers were also granted following
Superstorm Sandy, and while the industry did not oppose them, some privately question whether they were needed.)
- A provision in the MAP-21 transportation bill
that eliminated a requirement to reduce the percentage of food
aid that must be shipped on U.S.-flag ships from 75 percent to 50
percent and repealed a requirement that 25 percent of bagged or
processed food aid be shipped through Great Lakes ports.
- A current proposal by the Obama administration
to allow more food aid to be sourced overseas instead of
being purchased in the United States and transported on U.S.-flag vessels. U.S.-flag shipping interests feel MarAd is not doing enough to advocate on behalf of carriers which stand to lose business as a result of the proposed reforms.
MarAd also manages the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y. Matsuda inherited an institution that was heavily criticized in a 2009 Government Accountability Office report for "numerous instances of improper and questionable sources and uses of funds by the academy and its affiliated organizations."
Matsuda told Congress during budget testimony this spring that 33 of 46 recommendations in that report had been closed and "we have indications from GAO that additional closures are expected to be confirmed shortly." The school has been addressing infrastructure deficiencies and $14 million for repairs is included in President Obama's 2014 budget.
But the school has been led by three different superintendents - Allen Worley, Phillip Greene, and James Helis - during in the past five years, and some alumni have been critical that the school's training ship was replaced with a smaller vessel that was once used for retrieving solid rocket boosters from the the U.S. Space Shuttle program.
A continuing education program, the Global Maritime and
Transportation School, was closed last year, and last week a federal court upheld a decision by the school to force its alumni association off campus after 56 years
One source said a possible candidate for maritime administrator is Mark Howard Buzby, a retired two-star admiral who stepped down as commander of the Military Sealift Command last Friday.
Matsuda was sworn in as the maritime administrator on June 25, 2010. He
has been the acting maritime administrator since being appointed deputy
maritime administrator by President Obama on July 28, 2009. He was an
acting assistant secretary for transportation policy from March 2009
until his appointment at MarAd. Prior to that, he spent seven years on
Capitol Hill. While working in the U.S. Senate, he was senior counsel
and primary transportation advisor to Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg, R-N.J. - Chris Dupin