The expanded reach of the U.S. maritime industry is not without risks
By Ira Breskin
NEW YORK — Recognizing the potential risks associated with the expanded reach of the U.S. maritime industry was the theme of the inaugural Navy League Maritime Security Conference held here Thursday.
A broader geographic presence, for example, translates to increased U.S. Coast Guard operations well beyond busy inland waters, said Admiral Linda Fagan, commander of the USCG.
“We are an Arctic national. We are a Pacific nation.
The goal is to ensure “free and open access and legal exploitation of natural resources,” Fagan said. “We are a global coast guard,” she added at the event hosted by the Navy League Council of New York.
For instance, Coast Guard Cutter Healy earlier this month reached the North Pole, after crossing the frozen Arctic Ocean. It is the second time that an American ship has visited the pole without accompaniment; Healy first did it in 2015.
Additionally, the USCG is more actively policing IUU (illegal, unreported and unregulated) fishing in the eastern Pacific and the Caribbean, Fagan said.
USN Admiral James Foggo (Retired) emphasized the critical role the US Merchant Navy plays in providing vital sealift capability to support US armed forces deployed around the world.
“Logistics is the sixth area of warfare,” he said. This requires the efforts of “civilian seafarers who experience their trade at sea”.
Several speakers suggested initiatives the Pentagon should consider to ensure Navy ships operating in the Pacific continue to receive required bunker fuel. The review is more imperative given the planned closure next spring of the Navy’s Red Hill Bunker fuel storage facility in Hawaii.
Despite the challenges that Red Hill’s closure may create, it offers at least one benefit. This forces the Navy to use a more distributed and less vulnerable fuel supply network and “eliminates a single point of failure”, Admiral Foggo said.
The Department of Defense is closing the Red Hill, which has a storage capacity of 250 million gallons, to address environmental issues related to leaking tanks.
To alleviate any potential fuel supply shortages, Congress could increase the number of ships enrolled in the recently established Tanker Safety Program (TSP), Tim Walton said. He is a senior researcher at the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute in Washington DC.
Through TSP, the government will pay $6 million per year for the option to charter each of the 10 enlisted US-flagged TSP tankers to provide additional sealift capacity. Under the TSP, the government can charter these vessels, at market rates, to supplement the tonnage delivered by about 10 government-owned tankers.
Additionally, Washington could require additional government-purchased fuel, or “preferential cargo,” to be carried by TSP ships, to provide them with increased and guaranteed revenue, Walton said.
On the homeland security front, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is more intelligence-driven than transaction-driven when securing the nation’s marine terminals, said Edward Fox, deputy director of the agency for the Port of New York and New Jersey.
It does this by leveraging intelligence shared by sister federal agencies when addressing key areas of concern: illegal narcotics importation, terrorist threats and financial fraud, Fox said.
Ira Breskin is a senior lecturer at the State University of New York Maritime College in the Bronx, NY and author of The Business of Shipping (9th Edition, 2018), an introduction that explains the economics, operations, and regulation of shipping.