Remarks as delivered by
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao
Paul Hall Center 50th Anniversary Lunch
Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Thank you for that kind introduction, President Sacco.
President Sacco, Vice President Tellez, Secretary-Treasurer Heindel, Ms. Bowen [Maggie Bowen, Seafarers Plans Administrator], Mr. Crowley [Tom Crowley, President and CEO, Crowley Maritime Corporation] and members of the Seafarers International Union, it’s wonderful to be here to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education.
I would like to pause for a moment to say our hearts are with all those who endured the devastation of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. We have seen an outpouring of help and concern from all over the country. And mariners are playing a vital role in the emergency response, as well. The Department deployed MARAD personnel and four vessels to provide power, food, clean water and berthing to federal responders. The TS Kennedy was deployed to Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and has been re-deployed to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The TS General Rudder is berthing FEMA emergency response personnel in Galveston, Texas. The TS Empire State is providing relief support in Key West, Florida, which was hit hard by Hurricane Irma. And the Ready Reserve Force vessel Wright is supporting rescue and recovery efforts in the U.S. Virgin Islands. 29 Seafarers as well as 4 members of the AMO, augmented the crew of the TS Empire State, and 14 Seafarers augmented the crew of the TS Kennedy! I am so proud of what MARAD and America’s seafarers are doing to help in the recovery and relief efforts!
Helping each other is the American way. It is the Seafarer’s way, too.
Helping others was certainly the touchstone of Paul Hall’s life and career. He started from humble beginnings, yet he helped his fellow Seafarers build up a small group of 500 men into the largest maritime union in the world. Paul Hall fought for a better life for seafarers, a strengthened Merchant Marine, a stronger labor movement, and better opportunities for young people and people of color.
His own experience taught him that better opportunities depend upon education and training. So he opened the Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship here at Piney Point. This facility continues Paul Hall’s life work by providing entry level and advanced training for seafarers. It is the largest training facility in the United States for deep sea merchant seafarers and inland waterways boatmen. Since it was founded in 1967, tens of thousands rated and licensed seamen have completed upgrading classes at the center. In addition, more than 22,000 young men and women have graduated from its trainee program.
This legacy is just one of several reasons why the Department of Labor inducted Paul Hall into the Labor Hall of Fame in 2003. President Sacco joined me on stage at the time to honor this labor pioneer and visionary. During my tenure, the Labor Department worked closely the Seafarers. We worked together to defend the Jones Act.
And, in coordination with the Paul Hall Center we provided the SIU with a grant under the President's High Growth Job Training Initiative to train workers in the maritime industry. The Department of Labor and the Seafarers also created an Apprenticeship Certificate of Training Program for cruise ships.
The Department also supported construction of the Pride of America, an 80,000 ton vessel that was the first brand-new ocean-going passenger ship built in America in nearly 50 years. The ship still cruises between the Hawaiian Islands and employs an American crew that gets rave reviews.
Strengthening the maritime industry is important because of its contributions to America’s prosperity and national security. Merchant mariners ensure the safe and efficient waterborne delivery of commercial cargoes here at home, and across the globe. Approximately 71.6 percent of U.S. foreign trade, measured by tonnage and valued at $1.7 trillion, travels through our ports. Water transportation and support activities directly employ more than 237,600 workers in this country. This includes 77,260 seafarers who earn an average of $64,720 annually.
And U.S. mariners are a key factor in our country’s military readiness. For the past 240 years, they have transported supplies and equipment during times of conflict to our military forces abroad. They stand ready to fulfill that mission today, and they will be ready to do it tomorrow. As you know, the Department of Defense still relies on U.S.-flag ships crewed by American civilian mariners to move our warfighters, equipment and supplies whenever and wherever they need to go.
So I am so pleased to join you today to pay tribute to Paul Hall, the SIU, the men and women who staff this fantastic educational facility.
As the daughter of a merchant mariner, I fully appreciate the contributions you make to our country, and to the lives of the young men and women who are entering maritime careers. I met President Sacco when I was Deputy Administrator of the Maritime Administration. The friendship and working relationship we established continues to this day. My office is open to him, where ever I am, and his visits are welcomed.
It’s great to be back at Piney Point! Thank you for inviting me to join you for lunch today.