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U.S. Senator Floats New Legislation for Boosting Commercial Shipping

A prominent U.S. senator announced this week that he is working on new legislation that seeks to boost the commercial shipping industry, according to website Defense News.

Speaking at a maritime/defense industry event, Senator Mark Kelly (D-Arizona), said that revitalizing the commercial maritime industry is going to be key in 21st-century efforts to counter China in the world’s oceans. He went a step further, calling the commercial maritime industry an “economic and national security imperative.”

So, what will Senator Kelly propose exactly to revitalize the commercial maritime industry?

First, the U.S. Senate aims to tackle the issue of underinvestment in the U.S. Merchant Marine, a branch of the U.S. military that operates merchant ships. Senator Kelly wants to make U.S.-flagged commercial shipping vessels cheaper to operate. The Jones Act, historically, has made shipping via U.S.-flagged vessels more expensive by limiting options. It will certainly be revisited if Senator Kelly’s legislation gains momentum.

Additionally, Senator Kelly is looking at including new infrastructure investments for shipping here in the U.S. with funds for expanding shipyards and increasing the volumes and sizes of existing U.S. ports. And finally, Senator Kelly aims to expand merchant marine training to hopefully allow the U.S. to have a larger talent pool of qualified vessel operators right here at home to choose from. That would come from further investment into the U.S. Merchant Marine service, of which Senator Kelly graduated from.

In recent decades, commercial vessels have skewed almost exclusively to non-U.S. flagged vessels – might that change?

With legislation like the Jones Act being a reality for commercial shippers based in the U.S., there’s no denying that foreign-flagged ships and foreign-owned shipping infrastructure has been a priority. But with China and the U.S. facing down over global maritime supremacy, might the U.S. Congress be finally taking a look at changing the status quo? Only time will tell. As always, with the U.S. Congress, Senator Kelly’s proposed legislation has a long way to go until it becomes reality, and it is likely to be heavily modified between now and an eventual passage.

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