The Chamber of Marine Commerce joins the nation today in honoring America’s maritime heritage and the vital role that mariners contribute to the economic and environmental progress of the United States. May 22 is National Maritime Day in the U.S., a time-honored tradition that recognizes one of the most important industries in the country.
The latest statistics show that Great Lakes-St. Lawrence Seaway shipping moves more than 145 million metric tons of cargo on behalf of industries, farmers and cities, generating $25 billion in economic activity and supporting 147,000 jobs in the U.S.
Chamber President Bruce Burrows said that inland shipping is critical to the competitiveness and global trade success of the United States and presents an enormous opportunity for growth. Over the past two years, cargo on just the St. Lawrence Seaway has increased by more than 15 percent. Burrows added that the benefits go beyond economic development.
“Shipping is the safest mode of transportation, for both individuals working in the industry and the public,” he said. “Increasing inland shipping is also part of the solution to climate change. Marine transportation is seven times more fuel-efficient than trucks and trains and has the smallest carbon footprint of the three forms of transportation.”
One of the ways that government policy can help to foster this growth opportunity is through marine-related investments and supporting creative solutions for additional ice-breaking capacity, e-navigation and ports’ needs.
“The start of this year’s shipping season underscored the important need for more icebreaking assets in the Great Lakes,” Burrows said. “Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard crews worked tirelessly during the spring break-out, but were hampered by the age and condition of the fleets at their disposal.”
Two U.S. Coast Guard icebreakers were out of service in March and a Canadian icebreaker assigned to Lake Superior was only able to operate at 60 percent of capability and was idled in April due to mechanical issues. A second heavy icebreaker has been authorized by the U.S. Congress, but the project is only in the initial stages.
Meanwhile in Canada, three icebreakers have been acquired and are being retrofitted to supplement the Canadian Coast Guard’s existing fleet. One of these will be home-ported in the St. Lawrence River.
“It’s critical that the U.S. Coast Guard accelerate its plans to build a Great Lakes-dedicated heavy icebreaker and that new assets coming on-stream in Canada be part of the resource pool for the opening and closing of the shipping season in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence waterway,” Burrows said.
Once again this year, a Maritime Day celebration will take place in Duluth, Minn. The annual event, sponsored by the Duluth-Superior Maritime Club and the Duluth Seaway Port Authority, features a service of remembrance conducted by the Twin Ports Ministry of Seafarers and a maritime industry keynote address. Also joining the celebration will be Craig Middlebrook of the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corp., who will present a 2018 Pacesetter Award to the Port of Duluth-Superior for season-over-season gains in international shipping tonnage.
“Maritime Day is always a highlight on our calendar, a day to celebrate the men and women who, throughout our nation’s history, have served with professionalism, dedication, and patriotism in the United States Merchant Marine,” said Jayson Hron, director of communication and marketing, Duluth Seaway Port Authority. “Merchant mariners and the maritime industry as a whole contributes so much to America’s economy, trade and national security. We recognize that contribution daily in a world port like ours, but Maritime Day provides a reminder for the entire nation to see and salute the crucial role that maritime activity plays in our country’s success.”
To learn more about National Maritime Day, visit www.marad.dot.gov