Pacific Maritime Magazine - Marine Business for the Operations Sector

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Thank a US Mariner


June 1, 2020

In early May, in the midst of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, US Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao issued a video thanking the US maritime industry for its contribution to the country. Below is her message:

During these challenging times, I want to send a grateful message to everyone in the US maritime industry to thank you for your work and dedication.

Our nation is so thankful for your continued service to our country during this most unusual time.

US mariners and the US flag shipping fleet have been critical in helping to keep supply chains moving, and are an important part of our national defense.

The department is on the job 24/7 doing everything possible to help you. Knowing that US mariners will always respond to the call of duty gives all of us a sense of security.

You are helping our country get through this crisis and successfully prepare for economic recovery. For that you are to be applauded- you are an inspiration. Thank you for all that you do for our country.

This column would like to echo Secretary Chao’s sentiments. The country’s maritime workers, and the ships they build and on which they sail, play an invaluable role in protecting the freedom and independence or the United States.

In 1960, according to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the fleet of ocean-going ships of 1,000-gt and above, worldwide, numbered 17,317, of which 17 percent, were US flagged.

By 1965 the US fleet had dropped to 13 percent of the total, just below 8 percent in 1970 and down to 3.7 percent in 1975.

In 2019 the US fleet made up only 0.4 percent of the world’s 43,779 ships.

This needs to change.

Well-funded organizations like the Cato Institute or the Capital Research Center are waging an ongoing battle to deliver the nation’s maritime industry to the Chinese, who are currently building 43 percent of the world’s ships.

On the day that Secretary Chao released her message to the nation’s maritime workforce, online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter reported that the industry average salary for a US merchant mariner is $54,000. By comparison, the average pay for a Chinese mariner is around $11,600. This might explain why the “libertarians” at the Cato Institute are so opposed to the US commercial maritime industry.

China depends far more on trade with us than we do with them. While China is the United States’ third largest trading partner, after Canada and Mexico, the US is China’s largest. Meanwhile, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is intended to provide trillions of dollars in infrastructure financing to Asia, Europe, and Africa. The result gives China strategic control of its supply chain- especially if (when) a country defaults on the loan and surrenders the facility to China, as has happened in Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

In late March the Congressional Research Service released a report on China’s Naval Modernization, saying China’s navy poses a major challenge to the US Navy’s ability to achieve and maintain wartime control of blue-water ocean areas in the Western Pacific – the first such challenge the US Navy has faced since the end of the Cold War.

As Secretary Chao says above, the US flag shipping fleet is critical in helping to keep supply chains moving and an important part of our national defense. Thank you, US mariners.

Chris can be reached at


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