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Friday, March 25, 2016

US Anticipates Merchant Mariner Shortage

By Mark Edward Nero

By 2022, the United States will need 70,000 new people for the nation’s maritime fleet, Paul Jaenichen Sr., the head of the U.S. Maritime Administration, told the House Armed Services seapower and projection forces subcommittee March 22.

The problem, Jaenichen said, is that the six state maritime academies and Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, N.Y. only graduate 900 people per year and are at capacity.

He added that even with a new military-to-mariner program for separating service members, and other programs like it, the real issue is how those individuals would get credit for the necessary licenses required.

He told the panel that American mariners are “also a very aging work force” that could aggravate the shortfall in the future.

Addressing existing requirements for mariners in support of global power projection, Jaenichen said that while the administration can meet the requirement for immediate deployment, the first crew rotation is critical. After four to six months, he said, there were “not enough (mariners) for sustained operations.”

He also predicted “a perfect storm” after Jan. 1, 2017, when licensing requirements change. For the Maritime Administration, it means that drawing on a pool of recently retired mariners likely would not be possible. The retired mariners, to remain current under the regulations, would have to pay for required training out of their own pockets.

The Maritime Administration has said it hopes to release for public comment a strategic maritime assessment document in a few months. It would be the first such document in decades.