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Open sea lanes essential says Military Sealift Commander

Open sea lanes essential says Military Sealift Commander

Preserving freedom of the seas is one of the “foundation blocks” of the Navy, the commander of the Military Sealift Command told trustees of the United Seamen’s Service Wednesday.

   “We can’t survive as a nation without ocean trade routes and international trade, so the sea lanes must be open and free,” said Rear Adm. Robert D. Reilly Jr. “Ninety-nine percent of the volume and 85 percent of the value of all intercontinental trade flows across the seas.

   “Today, nearly 25 percent of the world’s oil supply flows through the Strait of Hormuz on a daily basis. A closure of this critical chokepoint for any period of time would have a very substantial impact upon the U.S. economy, ” he said. “In addition, with nearly 70 percent of the world’s spare oil capacity located within the Persian Gulf region, it would be difficult to make up the supply differential elsewhere.

   “Freedom of the seas and the economic access it provides can never be conceded in regions as vital as these,” he added

   Speaking to the 64th annual meeting of the United Seaman’s Service and its affiliate the American Merchant Marine Library Association in New York, Reilly noted, “The oceans have always been the great commons that connect us with the world. In this era of globalization, information and communication technologies inextricably link our interests and our economic prosperity to the freedom of those commons.

   “Each year, Navy leadership produces a playbook, an executive summary of where we’re headed for the year that is based on the Navy’s mission,” he said. “That mission is to provide combat-ready naval forces capable of winning wars, deterring aggression, preserving freedom of the seas and promoting peace and security.”

   Reilly noted that his command, with 8,000 employees including almost 7,000 merchant mariners, is the world's largest employer of U.S. mariners.

   “A strong U.S. maritime industry is a critical part of our national security strategy,” he told the group. “As we prosecute the global war on terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, the combat equipment, vehicles, supplies, munitions and fuel being used were all put into play by MSC and the maritime industry.

   “Since the beginning of the global war on terrorism, we’ve delivered almost 96 million square feet of combat power to U.S. and coalition forces. That’s enough war material to fill a supply train stretching from here in Manhattan all the way out past Salt Lake City, Utah,” he said. And the Military Sealift Command has delivered 10.8 billion gallons of fuel to support the effort.

   He said facilities that the United States provides for mariners ashore in places such as Diego Garcia, Pusan and Guam and books provided by the library association “mean the difference between constructive, enjoyable, mentally and physically healthy off-duty time, and the dreary, mind-numbing attitude of mariners who think there’s nothing to do, no one to talk to, and not much positive about a career at sea.”