Taking the National Maritime Strategy to the Great Lakes
Three weeks ago, the Maritime Administration (MARAD) held a three-day National Maritime Strategy Symposium, where more than 200 maritime stakeholders came together to discuss and respond to the issues our industry faces.
Throughout the course of the event, symposium participants worked on an approach to keep America's maritime industry healthy and viable in the long term: a National Maritime Strategy that government, industry, labor, and shippers can all support. And, when the symposium came to an end, we’d laid the groundwork for the beginning of the strategy.
To build on that initial effort, MARAD is engaging regional leaders in all segments of the industry, and this week's Great Lakes Waterways Conference in Cleveland was a terrific opportunity to have a conversation with some of those leaders. Who better to inform the Maritime Administration about current waterborne commerce conditions, issues, and productive maritime strategies on the Great Lakes than the educated and experienced individuals from Great Lakes ports, ship operators, shippers, and shipbuilding and repair as well as other maritime stakeholders?
The feedback has been extremely helpful. Much of what we’ve heard from Great Lakes maritime leaders mirrors what we heard at the National Maritime Strategy Symposium –a good sign that we’re on the right track in the drafting of our strategy.
One strong voice at the conference is my colleague, former Congresswoman and current Administrator of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation (SLSDC) Betty Sutton. Administrator Sutton highlighted the dramatic and far-reaching impacts that the development of domestic gas reserves is expected to have on the commercial marine industry and its customers.
This was a hot topic at the National Maritime Strategy Symposium as the industry is leaning far forward in its use of liquefied natural gas (LNG) as a marine propulsion fuel, a direction that MARAD has long supported.
Administrator Sutton and I both recognized that many of our country’s waterways have long histories of serving as reliable cornerstones to state and regional American economies, and we stressed the importance of taking advantage of emerging market opportunities to position the Great Lakes Seaway System for future growth.
My trip to the Great Lakes Waterways Conference was a productive one. Not only am I receiving valuable input regarding the priorities and concerns of the Great Lakes maritime industry, which MARAD will apply to the National Maritime Strategy; I’m also getting external verification that our approach to developing the strategy is on course.
It's clear that our priorities are shared by others --like Administrator Sutton and the Saint Lawrence Seaway community-- and that development of a National Maritime Strategy is long overdue.
Chip Jaenichen is Acting Administrator of the Maritime Administration.