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Posted: July 26, 2012

HR 6170: The Saving Essential American Sailors Act (SEAS)

American Maritime Officers appreciates the effort led by Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and Jeff Landry (R-LA) to overturn a recent surface transportation bill stealth provision that reduced the statutory U.S.-flag merchant vessel share of PL-480 "Food for Peace" exports from 75 percent to 50 percent.

HR 6170, the Cummings-Landry bill introduced July 24, is an encouraging, good faith, bipartisan attempt to restore the 75-percent U.S.-flag PL-480 cargo allocation in place since the historic farm commodity cargo preference compromise approved by Congress and the President in 1985. This compromise has worked well for the maritime and agricultural communities, for the federal agencies involved, and for the American people.

HR 6170 - the Saving Essential American Sailors Act (SEAS) - would prevent the imminent loss of an estimated 640 seagoing jobs and at least 2,000 jobs in related sectors ashore. This legislation would also prevent the permanent displacement of at least 16 privately owned and operated ocean-going U.S.-flagged merchant vessels.

In addition, HR 6170 would help ensure that private sector U.S. merchant ships and civilian American merchant mariners are available for strategic sealift service in the next defense emergency. As the Defense Department's Transportation Command has acknowledged, the federal government simply cannot match the military supply and support services provided worldwide by the U.S. merchant fleet - including ships that participate in PL-480 trades.

HR 6170 is co-sponsored by Republican Reps. Michael Grimm of New York and Candice Miller of Michigan, and by Democratic Reps. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, Rick Larsen of Washington, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Colleen Hanabusa of Hawaii, Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, Tim Bishop of New York and Corrine Brown of Florida.

Along with Reps. Cummings and Landry, each of these lawmakers stands up for the U.S. merchant fleet and American merchant mariners when the call goes out, no matter what the issue. We are grateful to them for their commitments to our industry and to the jobs it provides for U.S. citizen seafarers.

Tom Bethel
National President