No one likes sitting in traffic on their drive to work or school. But while commuting by boat may not be an option for most people, you may be surprised to learn that ships have an important role to play in relieving congestion on our roadways.
Ships can transport cargo that would otherwise be trucked over congested roads, and our coastal marine highways offer us the most energy-saving way of moving America's critical goods. So last week, our Maritime Administration released 11 new designs for vessels specifically engineered to operate on America’s coastal Marine Highways. The innovative designs focus primarily on roll-on, roll-off vessels that can carry wheeled cargo, like trailers, that can be driven on and off the ship.
We need these vessels for two reasons. For our marine highways along the coastal areas of the U.S. to be successful, we need modern, fuel efficient, environmentally sustainable vessels.
Another reason we need these vessels is national security. The Department of Defense needs sealift capacity to meet its requirements, and--when needed--these commercial vessels can satisfy national security needs.Using standardized designs will help spur production. Most shipbuilding is custom work, but building a series is manufacturing. These standardized designs are offered so American shipbuilders can take advantage of the economies of scale series production offers: a ready pool of suppliers, lower costs for each vessel, and fewer planning variables for the ports along our marine highways.
And, in case all of those benefits aren’t reason enough to be excited about the Maritime Administration’s new vessel designs, here’s another: jobs. American jobs producing these efficient, environmentally-friendly vessels will help grow our domestic shipbuilding industry and strengthen the communities where shipbuilding professionals are employed.
As Maritime Administrator David Matsuda said, “By bringing cutting-edge technology to America's maritime workforce, our country can be a global leader in shipbuilding.”
The America’s Marine Highway program the Obama Administration launched last year is part of that upgrade. Since then, we’ve designated 18 marine highway corridors and provided $215 million in funding for marine highway and port projects. And when we develop America’s coastal marine highway system--with new American-flagged vessels built in American shipyards by American workers--our legacy will be more than water routes on a map. It will be a country less dependent on oil, with new manufacturing jobs and more flexible national security sealift capabilities.
It will be a 21st century way to move critical goods in a 21st century economy. And our Maritime Administration is taking the lead by making sure we have the right ships to power into the future.