Crowley, Benishek Lead Bipartisan Letter Urging House Appropriations Committee to Boost Federal Funding for State Maritime Academies

March 23, 2016
Press Release

Over 60 Members of Congress Sign Letter in Support of Continuing Funding for New Training Vessels

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Reps. Joe Crowley (D-NY), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, and Dan Benishek (R-MI) announced they sent a bipartisan letter along with more than 60 of their colleagues urging leaders of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation to provide robust funding for State Maritime Academies for Fiscal Year 2017. Specifically, the letter urges funding for the National Security Multi-Mission Vessel program to support the construction of a new vessel for the nation’s six State Maritime Academies (SMAs) to train future mariners.

“Our State Maritime Academies, including SUNY Maritime College in the Bronx, are more than sources of pride for our nation – they play a crucial role in producing the next generation of maritime leaders and in protecting our national security interests,” said Crowley, whose district includes SUNY Maritime College. “Despite their critical role, our maritime academies are stuck with an aging, outdated fleet of vessels. We can’t train the mariners of tomorrow with the ships of yesterday. That’s why it is imperative that our maritime academies have the funding and resources necessary so they can continue their critical mission.”

“Graduates from institutions like the Great Lakes Maritime Academy in Traverse City are receiving the training they need for a career on the water. These students are our future ship captains and sailors all around the country. As we know in Northern Michigan, these jobs are vital to supporting our nation’s economy by ensuring goods are delivered safely and the maritime industry is healthy and vibrant,” said Dr. Benishek.

The maritime industry is an essential part of our nation’s economy, in addition to playing a critical role in national security. Each year, the industry generates over $100 billion, employs 1.5 million Americans and pays tens of billions in wages and benefits. The United States has long maintained a strong maritime industry because of concerted investments in the sector, including in the nation’s six State Maritime Academies (SMAs) and the ships they use for training.

“I am pleased and gratified by the strongest bi-partisan support we have ever received regarding the need to replace the aging fleet of training ships used by the State Maritime Academies to train and educate this nation’s future mariners. Congressman Joe Crowley and Congressman Dan Benishek have demonstrated tremendous leadership in spearheading this initiative. Their keen understanding of the importance of a strong merchant marine to our national security and economy is to be commended and widely applauded," said RADM Michael A.  Alfultis, president of SUNY Maritime College.

“The federally regulated maritime academies, which include Northwestern Michigan College's Great Lakes Maritime Academy, are unique American assets. They collectively produce over 70% of the credentialed mariners who serve as officers on large tonnage American flag merchant vessels. Additionally, many maritime academy graduates choose to serve their nation as active duty officers in the U.S. armed forces. If America is to continue to be a seafaring nation it must produce high quality merchant marine officers. If that goal is to be met the NSMV program needs to move forward,” said Great Lakes Maritime Academy Superintendent, Rear Admiral Gerard Achenbach.

Crowley and Benishek have long-championed funding for new training vessels for our nation’s maritime academies, spearheading multiple bipartisan letters to the Administration. In 2014, Crowley led a letter to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Office of Management and Budget with the initial request that the agencies to develop and support a plan to replace the aging ships used by our nation’s State Maritime Academies. In February 2015, President Obama designated $5 million in his budget to design and replace aging ships and a few months later, Crowley announced that the bill to fund the Department of Transportation and Department of Housing and Urban Development would include these funds, which was signed into law as part of the larger bill funding the entire government for FY2016.

The letter can be found here