Last week I was in Washington, D.C. attending the first ever Maritime Congressional Sail-In. The purpose of the event was to increase awareness of the importance of America’s maritime industry to the economic and national security of the United States, and to generate support for the programs and policies important to the survival and growth of the United States-flag merchant marine and to the jobs of American merchant mariners and America’s maritime workforce.
Attending the Sail-In was a wide range of participants from various segments of the U.S. maritime industry. 136 total participants representing over 45 different companies and organizations including Maersk, ABS, Crowley, AMO, and MM&P, among many others.
After meeting for breakfast in the The Rayburn House Office Building, the participants were broken up into 22 different groups. Each group would then spend the day meeting with a number of congressman to which we were assigned. My group consisted of team leader Carl Bentzel of DCI Group, Mike Neaumann from the Transportation Institute, Gregg Prisco from The Gilbert Company and Danny Shea from American Maritime Officers.
Our group was lucky enough to sit down with two congressman; John J. Duncan, Jr. from Tennessee’s 2nd District and Tom Latham from the 4th District of Iowa. We were also successful in meeting with the Chief’s of Staff for Mike Thompson of California’s 1st District and the Honorable Jerry McNerney of California’s 11th District. Between meetings we even “cold called” Congresswoman Grace F. Napolino’s office, meeting with her legislative Director, Joe Sheehy.
During the short 15 minute meetings, we discussed the environmental and economic benefits of short sea shipping including the importance of lifting the Harbor Maintenance Tax, stressed the scope of the Jones Act and the importance of a strong U.S. Flag merchant marine. All-in-all, we were very well received by every office that we met with.
The day ended with cocktail party in the Longworth House Office Building, attended by Captain Richard Phillips of the Maersk Alabama. In speaking with members of other groups, it seems like our presence alone had a great impact on legislators and Hill staffers and hopefully we can turn this into an annual event.