Congressman Garamendi’s Maritime Advisory Committee Meets at Cal Maritime Economy for Wide-Ranging Conversation
VALLEJO, CA - Today, Congressman John Garamendi (D-Fairfield, Davis, Yuba City, CA), the Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on the Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, convened his Maritime Advisory Committee at the California Maritime Academy in Vallejo. More than 50 people participated in the discussion, representing state and federal agencies, maritime businesses, and labor unions.
During the registration period, participants were shown a list of working group topics and asked to rank their top three topics. These rankings helped guide working group conversations. The top four topics ranked topics were the Jones Act, Buy America provisions, strategies to revitalize American shipbuilding, and strategies to educate lawmakers about the Maritime industry.
“Our national security is dependent on the Jones Act, which requires that goods shipped between American ports be on American ships with American mariners. Without the Jones Act, it will be very difficult for the U.S. military to maintain its global reach,” Garamendi said in his opening remarks.
After brief introductions, participants broke up into four working groups focused on public sector funding and initiatives, private sector economic opportunities, regulations and environmental sustainability goals, and education and workforce. Each conversation was led by an expert in the working group’s subject area, and after discussions that lasted more than an hour, the working groups reported their findings back to Congressman Garamendi and the larger group.
Following the working group sessions, Admiral Thomas Cropper, President of the California Maritime Academy, gave a presentation on Cal Maritime’s planned expansions and improvements through 2029.
Congressman Garamendi then delivered his keynote address.
“What I have on my mind is the nexus between public policy and maritime interests. Why is it that the maritime industry is on the decline? One reason: very bad public policy. Do the federal agencies tasked with regulating the maritime industry have sufficient staff and resources to fulfil their obligations in a timely manner? The answer is often no,” Garamendi said.
“In every port, we’re going to have to find a way to articulate the common interest that unites everyone involved in the maritime economy. That broad nationwide community of interest, a united maritime industry, can hone in on specific concerns and make real movement in changing policy,” Garamendi added.
Garamendi also discussed the importance of training programs at the Academy, in the military, in our schools, and in the private sector, so that there will be a new generation of ship captains, marine engineers, and sailors.”
Representatives from each working group then presented their findings.
The Public Sector Funding and Programs Working Group focused on infrastructure needs at the port: bigger berths, bigger cranes, grade separations to separate rail and truck traffic, etc. They also noted the importance of cybersecurity improvements across the supply chain.
Another common theme from their conversation was the importance of targeting existing funding streams. A lot of line items in the federal budget aren’t necessarily devoted to maritime investments, but they can be directed to maritime and ports through appropriations and competitive grants. The ports can’t self-finance every need.
“What we’d love to see out of the federal government is more help with congestion issues with investments in our ports,” they said.
The Private Sector Opportunities Working Group focused on the importance of promoting shipbuilding. Protecting the Jones Act was their top priority, although they didn’t spend much time on it because they understand the Congressman is already very supportive and familiar with that issue. They said the Title XI loan guarantees for shipbuilding need to be increased as the fund has no more capacity.
The Regulations and Sustainability Goals Working Group focused on the importance of consistency in cargo regulations. They also advocated for more funding for research into equipment that can help the industry meet air quality goals and regulations.
The Education and Workforce Development Working Group urged the Congressman to encourage his colleagues to hold similar events in other regions with a major maritime sector. Policymakers - local, state, and federal - need more direct exposure to the day-to-day workings of the industry, they said.
They also noted that it’s important to make sure that private training and military training align as much as possible. People leaving the military with a specialty in maritime work should have sufficient training to seamlessly transition into the private sector, keeping American seamen in the industry.
Garamendi noted that under recently passed law, the Harbor Maintenance Fund is supposed to be 100% devoted to ports. He urged everyone to alert Congressional appropriators of the importance of keeping this money exclusively for ports. He also urged everyone to closely look at the provisions in the five year surface transportation bill.
During a question and answer session that wrapped up the event, Garamendi fielded questions from participants. One asked for his position on the Trans Pacific Partnership.
“I have a huge problem with the Trans Pacific Partnership as written: it guts Buy America provisions, which require that your tax dollars be spent on American-made goods and equipment,” Garamendi said.
Through legislation, amendments, and public hearings, Ranking Member Garamendi is Congress’s leading advocate for increased American shipbuilding with American-flagged and American-crewed vessels. He convened his Maritime Advisory Committee to make sure that he’s as up-to-date as possible on the needs of the maritime industry, Coast Guard, and state and federal regulators.
Throughout the event, Congressman Garamendi’s topline message was the importance of a united front to enact change.
“This industry needs to be united. Opportunities arise to change policy. Speak with one voice, and you’ll be heard,” he told them.
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