June 19, 2019

Chair Maloney Statement from Hearing on Short Sea Shipping

Washington, D.C. — The following are opening remarks, as prepared for delivery, from Chair of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) during today’s hearing titled: “Short Sea Shipping: Rebuilding America’s Maritime Industry.”

Chair Maloney:

Good afternoon and welcome to today’s hearing on Short Sea Shipping. On March 6th, the Subcommittee examined the “State of the Maritime Industry.” In that hearing, the Maritime Administrator and industry representatives repeated a common message - when it comes to growing the American maritime industry, “cargo is king.”

If you’ve driven on Interstate 95 recently you know full well that there is an excess of cargo, and therefore traffic, on our roads. By 2045 truck freight volume is expected to grow by 43% which, without major infrastructure investments, will further clog our roads and highways. This increased traffic would be significantly alleviated if we shifted cargo to our waterways through Short Sea Shipping. 

Short Sea Shipping is the waterborne transportation of commercial freight between domestic ports through inland and coastal waterways. While our friends in Europe have placed Short Sea Shipping at the center of their transportation policies, moving over 40% of all European freight on oceans and inland rivers, we have failed to leverage our existing programs or provide additional support for our domestic shipping industry.

An invigorated Short Sea Shipping industry would not only increase the state of good repair of the U.S. roads and bridges by reducing maintenance costs from wear and tear and improve air quality and emissions, but would help to address the critical shortage in our merchant mariner workforce. Administrator Buzby and other government officials have repeatedly stated that we have 1,800 fewer mariners than what is needed to address America’s sealift needs. That gap would quickly begin to close if we fully utilized America’s marine highways and began shipping cargo on coastwise ships.

In order to rigorously promote Short Sea Shipping, we must develop a national multi-modal transportation and infrastructure plan that prominently features maritime transportation. The Maritime Administration claims to be working to maintain the health of the merchant marine. Yet in the 5 years since Congress tasked MARAD with the development of a comprehensive maritime strategy we have seen little movement to create a comprehensive plan to promote Short Sea Shipping. I look forward to hearing from Admiral Buzby on the status of that strategy, particularly as it pertains to Short Sea Shipping. I also look forward to hearing from our civilian panel on the benefits of Short Sea Shipping, the status of projects that currently exist, and what Congress and the Administration can be doing to advance the use of marine highways.