MARAD BECOMES MORE ôCUSTOMER FOCUSEDö THROUGH WEB TECHNOLOGY
The U.S. Maritime Administration will spend the next six months continuing to refine its effort to become more “customer focused and relevant to industry.”
“Our bottom-line goal is to provide value-added services to the industry,” said Maritime Administrator William G. Schubert during an evening speech at the Ship Operations Cooperative Program Meeting on board the Hospital Ship Mercy in San Diego, Calif., March 5.
Schubert has divided the U.S.-flag maritime industry into 10 categories and assigned two staff to each group. “Each team will become the points of contact between MarAd and industry,” Schubert said.
The agency is also establishing a Web-enabled strategy to interact with the industry. “We plan to evaluate where we are within each group and work to provide the necessary aid to promote the merchant marine in accordance with our mission statement,” Schubert said.
MarAd already launched several initiatives during the past year to improve customer agency. In November, the agency’s Office of Cargo Preference created a Web site in its portal to help participants in the Export-Import Bank program.
“This new procedure not only eliminates having to submit paper copies of ocean bills of lading to MarAd, but also reduces the processing time (for EXIM Bank-financed cargoes),” Schubert said. “But perhaps most importantly, it is a start on the road towards more use of electronic data transfer and process improvements.”
MarAd has also established a Web site to help shippers locate U.S.-flag ships to carry cargo to designated points worldwide.
In addition, the agency’s Office of Ports and Domestic Shipping developed an electronic Domestic Shipper Assistance Program.
“The program acts as an information distribution mechanism where shipper requirements are distributed by e-mail to dozens of shipbrokers, vessel owners, and operators to alert them to shipper needs,” Schubert said. “The service providers — the actual vessel principals — are then provided the opportunity to make offers directly to the shipper.”
MarAd plans to launch another Web site in its portal to allow vessel owners to request a waiver of the U.S.-build requirement for coastwise trade laws for vessels carrying 12 or fewer passengers in a specified area.
Last summer, MarAd participated in an inland waterways industry meeting and it was recommended that the agency serve as a Web-based repository for information about the nation’s waterway system.
“After the introduction of the Web site, we hope to continue servicing this research tool by including other historic waterway documents that are not electronically available,” Schubert said.