The House of Representatives and Senate have each passed, and the President has signed, omnibus appropriations legislation that includes much needed and significant new funding levels for the Maritime Security Program. In the short term, the omnibus legislation increases MSP funding for Fiscal Year 2016 by $24 million, making each vessel participating in the program eligible for $3.5 million in FY’16, rather than the previously authorized $3.1 million.
In addition and most importantly, the omnibus legislation recognizes the importance of providing a long-term MSP funding schedule that more realistically addresses the impact that reductions in defense and other government cargoes have had on the fleet. It does so by authorizing an increase in the per vessel stipend for each of the 60 militarily-useful U.S.-flag commercial vessels in the maritime security fleet to $4,999,990 per ship in Fiscal Year 2017; $5 million per ship in each of Fiscal Years 2018, 2019, and 2020; and $5, 230,000 per ship in Fiscal Year 2021. This increase, which reflects the amount the Maritime Administration has indicated is necessary to retain these 60 vessels and their maritime jobs for the U.S.-flag, will help guarantee that the Department of Defense will continue to have the commercial sealift capability it needs to protect America’s interests and to support American troops around the world.
The USA Maritime Coalition strongly supports and applauds this action by the Congress. It is, according to USA Maritime Coalition Chairman James Henry , “a critically important first step in our ongoing battle to strengthen and grow the U.S.-flag merchant marine. It clearly demonstrates that Congress understands that the most cost effective and efficient way for our government to have the sealift capability it needs is through the Maritime Security Program and its partnership with the U.S.-flag shipping companies and American maritime unions. It goes a long way to keeping ships under the U.S.-flag and ensuring that American maritime jobs will not be sent overseas.”