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Maritime Law: Saving American Seafarer Jobs

Last year, Congressman Elijah E. Cummings (D-MD) introduced the Saving Essential American Sailors (SEAS) Act in an effort to repeal section 100125 of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) Act, which reduces the amount of U.S. food aid required to be carried on U.S.-flagged ships from 75 percent to 50 percent. Despite a bipartisan effort, the bill died in committee.

Without the implementation of SEAS and the repeal of the section of MAP-21, it is reported that as many as 2,000 American maritime jobs could be lost and as much as $90 million in lost revenues for U.S.-flag operators. These are figures from the U.S. Maritime Administration. If the offending section of MAP-21 is not repealed, we will have a situation where foreign-owned vessels would have to be depended on by the U.S. to delivery its cargo to our troops overseas. Without the U.S.-flagged sealift capacity, U.S. imports and exports would move solely on foreign shipping lines, many of which are stated-owned lines. The U.S. military would be left dependent on foreign-flagged, foreign-owned ships manned by non-U.S. citizens to carry U.S. military cargoes.

The plight of the loss of the American seafarer has been detailed in numerous publications (Maritime Executive, Marine Log and others), op-eds and other trade papers, but the word does not seem to be  getting out to the general public. I am always met with surprise when I explain this law to ordinary Americans and they ask me "why haven't I heard anything about this?" Without going on a tangent on the "why", it is imperative that we in the maritime industry educate ordinary Americans of what this law means--saving American seafaring jobs.

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