Trent Lott Speech on the Maritime Industry

Trent Lott | Information Services | Thursday, July 10, 2003

Trent Lott Speech on the Maritime Industry

(Editor's Note: The following is a an April 2, 2003, floor speech from Trent Lott regarding the maritime idustry.)

Mr. LOTT. Mr. President, let me say again that I appreciate what Senator McCain does with this amendment and the effort he makes on a lot of these bills, to come to the floor with projects that are pretty hard to explain and justify. I know he is acting in good faith. I think his amendment, sort of a wraparound amendment, is going to be a very interesting one to hear discussed tomorrow.

Let me talk about title XI because I am sure he will not be surprised to hear me speak on it. I have supported the title XI program over the years. It is an important program in helping to meet our national objectives, our energy self-sufficiency, increase domestic commerce, strengthen shipbuilding, our industrial base, and a large commercial fleet of militarily useful ships to meet DOD sealift requirements in our war on terrorism, the war we are involved in right now.

The point that Senator McCain made, that of the 51 ships that are carrying cargo now and perhaps, I guess, some equipment, both liquid and dry cargo, 51 of them that are involved in the effort now in the war in Iraq, only 1 of them had the title XI funds. In fact, probably if you check, you will find that most of those ships are foreign ships, ships built in foreign shipyards. I suspect probably there are some Dutch and German and, who knows, maybe even some French ships on which we are dependent. Some of them have American flags and I guess are crewed by American crews. That is all important.

But it is a tragedy in America if we don't have a maritime industry. When I go to the port in my hometown and look at the grain elevators and look at the ships hauling poultry products to Russia, there is no American flag on those ships. It is Liberian, Panamanian, Ukrainian, Russian. It is everywhere in the world but the United States.

Is this program perfect? No. Should we try to make sure that it is run better and we get more money for our investment? Yes. But I still have a real trouble with a country such as the United States not having the capability to build our own ships and be crewed with American crews. More and more and more we are dependent on foreign ships.

There are good explanations for that. I guess the market is supposed to take care of those problems, but it is a danger. How many countries in the history of the world have survived very long without their own merchant fleet? Our shipyards now are building Navy combatants basically. That is it. No cruise ships, no cargo ships. We are getting out of the business. Maybe that is OK. But I think there is a danger there.

We are dependent now on these maritime vessels to move cargo and equipment. Right now they are involved in what is going on in Iraq. This program did not get any funds in fiscal year 2003. It is true the administration didn't ask for additional funds. It did not receive any funds in the omnibus bill. That is one of the reasons why it is badly needed now. If we don't have some funds, they might have like $1 million in funds. There are no funds for the backlog in this area.

By the way, title XI is not so important to the big shipyards. The big shipyards are not in this business. When they try to get into this business, it doesn't work. The best example in the world, I guess, even though it was a victim of timing, was the cruise ship situation.

Most of this money goes to the medium and small yards, and it is a loan program. Maybe it is not administered closely enough, and I acknowledge that. We need to understand what we are doing. If we don't fund it with this $50 million, or fund it in 2004, the program is dead. I think that is a mistake for our country.

I still believe we need our own merchant fleet. I hate to see all those jobs lost--engineers and other workers--and go to the shipyards around the world. I still would like to think that those ships are on call to America as American ships.

I understand that maybe this is not the right place for it, but there is a relationship to the war that is going on right now. It does affect our future ability to make sure we have our ships and crews on call that can deliver the dry products, liquid products, and the equipment around the world.

So I urge defeat of this amendment. I reserve my right to look at the package that Senator McCain may be offering later on this week.