Prepared Remarks Of Honorable Norman Y. Mineta,, US Sec. Transport.



U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
FEBRUARY 25, 2005

Good morning, everyone. It’s wonderful to be with all of you again.

I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to believe that almost an
entire year has come and gone since we were last together in
Hollywood, Florida.

>From that gathering last year through today, our economy has gotten
stronger, and more Americans have been able to find good, quality

Or, at least in my case, more Americans are holding on to their
quality jobs!

I have President Bush to thank for giving me the opportunity to serve
this great Nation again as the Secretary of Transportation.

And, I have you to thank for the invitation to be in Las Vegas today
with the Maritime Trades Department and your 29 affiliated unions.

All of us in this room, from the people who work in the ports to the
mariners aboard the ships, are drawn together by a common interest in
one thing – the health of our economy.

We are a maritime Nation. And the maritime industry is essential to
our economic strength, to our productivity, and to the creation of
American jobs.

Just a few weeks ago we learned that, nationwide, 46,000 jobs were
created in January — the 20th straight month of steady employment

What does that tell us? It means that President Bush’s policies are
doing exactly what they are intended to do. They’re creating
employment opportunities for the rank and file, and they’re energizing
the economy.

There is another linchpin issue uniting all of us, and that is
maritime security. The President has said, and I quote, `We are safer,
but we’re not yet safe.’

And he is right.

The Maritime Security Program (MSP) supports the war on terror by
giving us the wherewithal to carry equipment and supplies to those
charged with defending our freedom and expanding liberty.

This program is one more important measure of the maritime industry’s
vital importance to our economic and national security, and our
commitment to addressing its needs.

So, I am pleased to announce that the President’s fiscal year 2006
budget calls for a fully funded fleet expansion to 60 ships, up from

This marks the first increase in the fleet since the program was
created more than ten years ago.

Without MSP reauthorization, there would have been a high likelihood
that many of the existing 47 ships would have been re-flagged to
foreign registries employing foreign crews.

And they would not be putting money into our economy or paying taxes.

Now, with the funding that the President has proposed, when the new
MSP begins on October 1 of this year, it will bring greater
opportunities and more jobs for U.S. citizens.

As you know, the MSP fleet employs a labor base of skilled and loyal
American seafarers. They must also be well-trained.

When the Congress passed the Maritime Transportation Security Act in
2002, it gave the Secretary of Transportation the responsibility of
developing new, focused security training courses for maritime

We have done that.

And we have set up a voluntary process to assess the quality of the
courses being offered by private parties.

The Seaferers’ Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship was the first
training provider to apply to MARAD for course certification. We also
received submissions from several non-union training providers.

This is a great opportunity to announce that SIU has the distinction
of being the first to receive certification for your Vessel Security
Officer training course.

Congratulations to Mike Sacco and the SIU.

Nearly one year ago, at the MTD’s last conference, you’ll recall that
I unveiled the Administration’s blueprint for a comprehensive Marine
Transportation System.

I called that initiative SEA-21.

This is one of my top priorities for this second term, and several
crucial components have already gone into effect.

One of the issues that SEA-21 recognized was that America’s merchant
marine was at a disadvantage compared to foreign-flagged vessels whose
owners and crews pay minimal taxes.

This issue was brought directly to the President’s attention. And I am
extremely pleased that, after years of competing on a slanted playing
field, tax relief for the U.S. shipping industry is a done deal, and
the field has been leveled.

As if taxes were not enough of a challenge, there are 17 Federal
agencies in six, separate cabinet-level Departments participating in
maritime decision-making.

The job of coordinating their work and their policies has never been
easy, but we hope we’ve found a way to make their job easier.

The answer is a one-stop shop for the maritime sector.

President Bush is committed to improving the coordination of maritime
policy, and an integral part of that is building a higher profile for
the Interagency Committee on the Marine Transportation System.

On December 17 of last year, in his U.S. Ocean Action Plan, the
President elevated the ICMTS to a Cabinet-level body, ensuring that
the maritime sector will now be accorded the attention it deserves.

I want to thank Captain William Schubert for his tremendous efforts in
this regard while he was the Maritime Administrator.

Thanks to his leadership and ability to work as an honest broker with
all segments of the maritime community, there is now greater
across-the-board industry cooperation to help us in addressing the
challenges of the future.

And John Jamian, our acting Administrator, is working with the Coast
Guard to develop the framework that will make the ICMTS a useful tool
for the maritime industry.

We’ve already done something similar with aviation policy, and it has
really improved the way that we coordinate the Nation’s air
transportation planning.

In short, we are bringing that same can-do mindset to the maritime
sector, in cooperation with all of our partners, especially the Coast
Guard, the Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA.

Let’s turn now to another significant constraint facing the maritime

And that is, congestion and inadequate infrastructure at the
connections between our ports and the Nation’s surface transportation

I know that John Jamian spoke to you yesterday about port congestion,
so for the moment I’ll focus on infrastructure and what we’re doing
about it.

Too often, the connections between trucks and trains and merchant
ships are neglected, which slows the efficiency of the entire system.

One solution can be found in our reauthorization proposal for surface
transportation programs, which we call SAFETEA, or the Safe,
Accountable, Flexible, and Efficient Transportation Equity Act.

SAFETEA encourages, in new and innovative ways, meaningful investments
to help improve the critical `last-mile’ road connections from the
National Highway System to intermodal freight facilities.

These initiatives are designed to enhance accessibility and to improve
the productivity of the entire maritime system.

With freight volumes soaring and bottlenecks on the rise, the time for
this legislation is now.

I will continue to work with the Congress to get SAFETEA passed. And I
believe that it will pass, early this year.

And then in 2006, when I stand once again before the Maritime Trades
Department, we can celebrate another major success for the
U.S. maritime industry.

Thank you for inviting me to share our plans. May God bless all of
you, and may God continue to bless the United States of America.