SURVEY: FOREIGN-FLAG SHIPS RAISE SECURITY CONCERNS FOR AMERICANS
A national survey sponsored by one of the country’s largest maritime unions found that most Americans are concerned about the national security implications of the foreign-flag-vessel dominance in U.S. ocean cargo transport.
The survey, which was conducted by Washington-based Fingerhut, Powers, Smith and Associates on behalf of the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association, included a sample of 1,100 registered voters from both the Republican and Democratic parties.
“When Americans are informed that only 3 percent of U.S. foreign trade is carried by U.S.-flagged vessels with American crews, they are appalled,” said Vic Fingerhut of Fingerhut, Powers, Smith and Associates.
“When they find out that strategic materials and even military cargo required by U.S. troops engaged in actions abroad are often carried by foreign-flagged vessels with foreign crews, they go ballistic,” he said.
“All of us in the maritime industry who have spoken before civic and community groups around the country have perceived the unease of average Americans who find out how minuscule the American merchant fleet is and how much our country has become dependent on foreign ships with foreign crews,” said Ron Davis, national president of MEBA.
Findings of the survey include:
* 70 percent of Americans said they were “shocked” to learn that only 3 percent of U.S. foreign trade is carried on U.S.-flag ships.
* 89 percent agreed that it’s important for a majority of U.S. seaborne trade to be carried on American-crewed ships.
* 89 percent expressed concern that the U.S. government contracted foreign-flagged ships to carry the country’s military equipment abroad.
* 92 percent of Americans agreed that it was important to take immediate steps to significantly increase the size of the U.S. merchant marine.
* 79 percent said it was a “good idea” to increase the size of the Maritime Security Program from the current 47 ships to 100 ships, even at a cost of $320 million annually.
* 71 percent of Americans said they would be less inclined to support a candidate for Congress if that candidate opposed a measure increasing U.S.-flag sealift capacity.
Davis said the poll’s finding would be part of an extensive national campaign to build support for a stronger U.S. merchant marine.
“The fact remains — if an international emergency is triggered, 95 percent of our military cargo must be deployed by sea,” Davis said. “Given the terrorist threat and America’s global military requirements, this campaign is not an option — it’s a necessity.”