- The Honorable Michael Khouri, Acting Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission
- The Honorable Rebecca Dye, Commissioner, Federal Maritime Commission
- The Honorable Mario Cordero, Commissioner, Federal Maritime Commission
- Rear Admiral James Helis, United States Maritime Service Superintendent, U.S. Merchant Marine Academy
- Mr. Joel Szabat, Executive Director, Maritime Administration
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security
This hearing will take place in Russell Senate Office Building, Room 253. Witness testimony, opening statements, and a live video of the hearing will be available on www.commerce.senate.gov.
Chairman Deb Fischer
Good afternoon everyone. Thank you all for being here today for our fourth hearing of the Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security Subcommittee. Today’s hearing is entitled “Maritime Transportation: Opportunities and Challenges for the Maritime Administration and Federal Maritime Commission.”
As I’ve mentioned before in this subcommittee, the United States has a rich maritime heritage. In fact, shipbuilding is one of our country’s the oldest industries, dating back to the early colonial period. From the beginning, America’s coastal and inland waterways were used for exploration, commerce, transportation, defense, and recreation.
Today, ocean transportation and seaports remain critical to the economy and our nation’s transportation system. According to the International Maritime Organization, over 90 percent of global trade is transported by ocean carriers.
The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) has found that freight tonnage on our nation’s transportation network will grow by 40 percent over the next 30 years. As our freight flows grow, seaports will serve as a key connection point for all modes of transportation.
In Nebraska, our agriculture producers work hard to feed a hungry world. But in order for these producers to compete internationally and meet customer needs, they rely on efficient ports and access to maritime carrier services.
Today, our subcommittee will examine the activities of the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, and Federal Maritime Commission.
The Maritime Administration plays an important role in our national security. MARAD manages the Department of Defense Ready Reserve Force, which serves to transport combat support, resupply, and unit equipment to the Army and Marine Corps.
Senator Booker and I have authored and passed significant reforms to strengthen MARAD over the past two years. In addition to reauthorizing MARAD’s national security vessel programs, we included measures recommended by the DOT Inspector General to improve workforce management at the agency. Our 2016 MARAD legislation, which was included in the annual National Defense Authorization Act, also provided greater flexibility for joint DOT and DOD vessel management programs.
Importantly, we also included significant measures to help address instances of sexual assault and harassment at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA). The Academy’s 2015 anonymous survey of midshipmen found that as many as 28 women and 24 men had been sexually assaulted on campus. However, the Academy noted there was only one officially-reported case of sexual assault.
Because of our legislative efforts, midshipmen will have greater access to victim advocates and a 24-7 hotline. Moreover, the academy is now required to employ sexual assault response professionals and provide preventative training to midshipmen.
As one of our five service academies, the USMMA plays a vital role in developing future leaders in the maritime industry, including many who will go on to serve in our nation’s armed forces. I am thankful for their service to our country. Moving forward, we must continue to work toward ensuring a safe environment on campus and during the Sea Year program.
We are also going to hear testimony from three Commissioners of the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC). FMC is an independent federal agency tasked with fostering a fair, efficient, and reliable international ocean transportation system for U.S. exporters, importers, and consumers. The FMC is responsible for regulating ocean carrier activities, approving ocean carrier alliances, and monitoring ocean transportation operations and rates.
The FMC also has an important role in overseeing freight activities at our nation’s port terminals.
As many here are aware, the 2015 West Coast ports slowdown caused massive congestion and gridlock. According to a study by the National Retail Federation and National Association of Manufacturers, a five-day West Coast ports stoppage would reduce U.S. GDP by $9.4 billion and disrupt 73,000 jobs.
Greater information is essential to improving the efficiency of our ports.
I want to commend Commissioner Rebecca Dye, who has led in this area by establishing the Supply Chain Innovation Teams initiative. Better communication between stakeholders and real-time data sharing will go a long way toward addressing bottlenecks and enhancing the flow of goods through our ports.
I look forward to learning more about how the FMC is working to strengthen ocean transportation.
Thank you again to our witnesses for being here today. I now turn to my colleague and Ranking Member Senator Cory Booker for his opening remarks.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Michael KhouriActing ChairmanFederal Maritime Commission
The Honorable Rebecca DyeCommissionerFederal Maritime Commission
The Honorable Mario CorderoCommissionerFederal Maritime Commission
Rear Admiral James HelisUnited States Maritime Service SuperintendentU.S. Merchant Marine Academy
Mr. Joel SzabatExecutive DirectorMaritime Administration