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Posted: August 21, 2008

American Maritime Officers endorses Sen. Barack Obama for President

American Maritime Officers — the nation’s largest union of licensed civilian seagoing professionals — is pleased to endorse the Presidential candidacy of Democratic Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

Senator Obama’s eloquent expressions of support for the Jones Act, the Maritime Security Program and U.S.-flag cargo preference in principle and in practice confirm that the Senator understands the value of U.S.-flagged merchant vessels and of civilian American merchant mariners to the U.S. economy and to U.S. national security.

Senator Obama’s maritime policy views stand in stark, telling contrast with the established record of the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain of Arizona.

Senator McCain sees the Maritime Security Program as an extravagance instead of as a modest investment in efficient U.S.-flagged ships and skilled and dependable maritime manpower to provide strategic sealift and other military support services in defense emergencies. He accepts the lingering but long-discredited contention that the Jones Act serves no legitimate economic or defense purpose. Senator McCain does not appreciate the diplomatic dividend that comes with the delivery of U.S. food aid and other humanitarian cargoes to impoverished or distressed countries in merchant ships that fly the Stars and Stripes.

There is another critical difference between Senator Obama and Senator McCain. Senator Obama is running a tight, focused campaign, while Senator McCain is struggling daily to find a message and stay on it. This indicates a vast difference in leadership ability and style between Senator Obama and Senator McCain, with Senator Obama holding the clear, decisive edge.

Moreover, Senator Obama has proven that he can bridge party lines — an important consideration for American Maritime Officers, which supports all U.S. lawmakers who support the U.S. merchant marine, regardless of party affiliation or political ideology. The American merchant fleet enjoys broad bipartisan support in the United States House of Representatives and in the United States Senate.

This is an easy call for American Maritime Officers. We support Senator Obama’s historic quest enthusiastically and in the firm belief that, on his watch at the White House, the U.S. merchant marine will be up to the economic and defense responsibilities assigned to it by U.S. history, geography and law.

American Maritime Officers is affiliated with the Seafarers International Union of North America and is active in the Maritime Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations.

AMO represents 4,000 U.S. Coast Guard-licensed marine engineers and licensed deck officers employed on privately owned and operated U.S.-flagged merchant vessels operating in domestic deep-sea, Great Lakes and inland waters markets and in U.S. international trade. AMO is the principal source of licensed officers on U.S. cargo ships operating under U.S. Navy Military Sealift Command and Maritime Administration charter.

Thomas J. Bethel
National President
August 21, 2008