MARAD CHIEF AFFIRMS COMMITMENT TO U.S.-FLAG VESSEL FLEET
Capt. William G. Schubert, head of the U.S. Maritime Administration, wants to turn the tide of decline in U.S.-flag tonnage, which has plagued the nation’s merchant marine for the past decade.
Schubert said his administration would also work hard to form a consensus on the reauthorization of the Maritime Security Program. The Bush administration decided to keep the MSP program under MarAd.
“With that issue settled, we need to find innovative ways to encourage other types of vessels to enter the domestic and foreign trades, flying the U.S. flag,” said Schubert before the Propeller Club in Washington Wednesday.
“I will use resources available to me — department-wide — in order to achieve this goal. I will stand behind any company that is considering adding new tonnage to the U.S. flag,” he said.
'One way to add new tonnage under the U.S. flag, Schubert said, is to eliminate the three-year waiting period for newly constructed bulk and breakbulk vessels in order to carry civilian preference cargo and food aid.
“The administration has supported the removal of this unnecessary restriction in the past, and I will continue to advocate for the elimination of the three-year rule for food aid business subject to cargo preference eligibility,” Schubert said.
MarAd also plans to give the proposed Merchant Marine Cost Parity Act its “highest consideration.” The bill, which was recently put forward by Rep. James L. Oberstar, D-Minn., of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, calls for tax breaks in several areas of vessel management to stimulate an increase in capacity under the U.S. flag.
“We need to explore the tonnage tax regime as an alternative to income tax for U.S. vessels in the foreign trade,” Schubert said. “The tonnage-based system has been successfully implemented in the United Kingdom and could provide a model or framework for this country to follow.”