America needs a transportation system that allows our economy to grow while also reducing our fuel costs and our impact on the environment. The more effectively we can move goods to and from American businesses, the better our businesses can compete globally.
Most of the goods that American consumers buy and our businesses produce are moved over water at some point on their way to markets. And to make sure we're using our thousands of miles of river and coastline effectively, the Obama Administration has developed an innovative Marine Highways Program and we have used TIGER funding to invest in our ports. But we’re also committed to ensuring that our waterways are as good for the environment as they are for business.
There is perhaps no greater symbol of this Administration’s commitment to a cleaner maritime industry than the clean-up of California's Suisun Bay. For years, obsolete vessels sat idle in the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet while the government and environmental representatives tried to come to an agreement about the most appropriate way to remove them.
But beginning in 2009, the Department of Transportation set out to change that. First, we resumed stalled negotiations. Then, we began removing vessels for the first time since 2007. In March 2010, we reached an agreement with the California Regional Water Board and environmental groups to remove 57 obsolete vessels at Suisun Bay by September 2017. We set an ambitious goal of removing 28 of these ships in three years—the ones that presented the greatest risk to the environment.
Today, I was thrilled to visit Suisun Bay to announce that we’ve surpassed that goal. We’ve removed 36 vessels so far, with three more slated to go by the end of the year. In fact, we’re actually two years ahead of schedule.
Even better, some of the money the federal government earns from recycling these ships goes to support our state maritime academies.
Yesterday in Vallejo, California, I visited Cal Maritime, and I saw firsthand the terrific education and training our state maritime academies provide for our future merchant mariners. Today, I’m proud to announce that we’re giving the six state maritime academies an additional $2.2 million this year.
This money is a continuation of our strong commitment to the academies, and it builds on the $3.3 million that we awarded to the maritime academies last May. It will help us continue to train the next generation of merchant mariners.
America's maritime industry is critical to our nation’s economy and security. We need well-prepared and highly skilled merchant mariners to support a strong maritime industry; our academies help us achieve that goal; and we are happy to support them.
Across the board--whether we're developing our marine highways, recycling the obsolete vessels of the past, or training future merchant mariners--this Administration's commitment to maritime is part and parcel of our commitment to the future of American transportation.