United States Merchant Marine
United States Merchant Marine
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The United States Merchant Marine refers to the fleet of the nation's civilian-owned merchant ships operated by either the government or the private sector that are engaged in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States. The merchant marine is responsible for transporting cargo and passengers during peace time. In time of war, the merchant marine is an auxiliary to the Navy, and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military.
The people of the merchant marine are called merchant mariners. The merchant marine is not a uniformed service, except in times of war when, in accordance with the Merchant Marine Act of 1936, mariners are considered military personnel. In 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed a bill into law making veterans of merchant mariners who serve in war.
As of 2006, the United States merchant fleet numbered 465 ships and approximately 69,000 people. Seven hundred ships owned by American interests but registered, or flagged, in other countries are not included in this number.
The federal government maintains fleets of merchant ships via organizations such as Military Sealift Command and the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In 2004, the Federal government employed approximately 5% of all American water transportation workers.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, a number of laws were enacted that fundamentally changed the course of American merchant shipping. These laws put an end to practices such as flogging and shanghaiing, and increased shipboard safety and the standard of living. The United States Merchant Marine is also governed by several international conventions to promote safety and prevent pollution.
- 1 Background
- 2 History
- 3 Today's merchant fleet
- 4 Important laws
- 5 Noted U.S. Merchant Mariners
- 6 Fictional accounts
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 See also
- 10 External links
Merchant mariners move cargo and passengers between nations and within the United States. They operate and maintain deep-sea merchant ships, tugboats, towboats, ferries, dredges, excursion vessels, and other waterborne craft on the oceans, the Great Lakes, rivers, canals, harbors, and other waterways.
Captains, mates, and pilots supervise ship operations on domestic waterways and the high seas. A captain is in overall command of a vessel, and supervises the work of all other officers and crew. The captain orders the ship's course and speed, maneuvers to avoid hazards, and continuously monitors the ship's position. Captains oversee crew members who steer the vessel, determine its location, operate engines, communicate with other vessels, perform maintenance, handle lines, and operate the ship's equipment. Captains and their department heads ensure that proper procedures and safety practices are followed, ensure that machinery is in good working order, and oversee the loading and discharging of cargo and passengers. They also maintain logs and other records tracking the ships' movements, efforts at controlling pollution, and cargo and passengers carried.
The mates direct a ship's routine operation for the captain during the shifts, which are called watches. Mates stand watch for specified periods, usually 4 hours on and 8 hours off. When more than one mate is necessary aboard a ship, they typically are designated chief mate or first mate, second mate, third mate, and so forth. Mates also supervise the ship's crew. They monitor cargo loading and unloading to ensure proper stowage, and supervise crew members engaged in maintenance and the vessel's upkeep.
Pilots guide ships in and out of confined waterways, such as harbors, where a familiarity with local conditions is of prime importance. Harbor pilots are generally independent contractors who accompany vessels while they enter or leave port, and may pilot many ships in a single day.
Ship's engineers operate, maintain, and repair propulsion engines, boilers, generators, pumps, and other machinery. Merchant marine vessels usually have four engineering officers: A chief engineer and a first, second, and third assistant engineer. Assistant engineers stand periodic watches, overseeing the safe operation of engines and machinery.
Deck officers and ship's engineers are usually trained at maritime academies. However, women were barred from entry to U.S. maritime academies until 1974, when the California Maritime Academy admitted women as cadets. It is becoming increasingly difficult for unlicensed mariners to earn a merchant marine license due to increased requirements for formal training. To do so, a mariner must have sufficient sea time in a qualified rating and complete specified testing and training, such as that required by STCW.
Able seamen and ordinary seamen operate the vessel and its deck equipment under the officers' supervision and keep their assigned areas in good condition. They stand watch, looking out for other vessels and obstructions in the ship's path, as well as for navigational aids such as buoys and lighthouses. They also steer the ship, measure water depth in shallow water, and maintain and operate deck equipment such as lifeboats, anchors, and cargo-handling gear. On tankers, mariners designated as pumpmen hook up hoses, operate pumps, and clean tanks. When arriving at or leaving a dock, they handle the mooring lines. Seamen also perform routine maintenance chores, such as repairing lines, chipping rust, and painting and cleaning decks. On larger vessels, a boatswain, or head seaman will supervise the work.
Marine oilers and more experienced qualified members of the engine department, or QMEDs, maintain the vessel in proper running order in the engine spaces below decks, under the direction of the ship's engineering officers. These workers lubricate gears, shafts, bearings, and other moving parts of engines and motors; read pressure and temperature gauges; record data; and sometimes assist with repairs and adjust machinery. Wipers are the entry-level workers in the engine room, holding a position similar to that of ordinary seamen of the deck crew. They clean and paint the engine room and its equipment and assist the others in maintenance and repair work. With more experience they become oilers and firemen.
A typical deep-sea merchant ship has a captain, three mates, a chief engineer and three assistant engineers, plus six or more unlicensed seamen, such as able seamen, oilers, QMEDs, and cooks or food handlers. Other unlicensed positions on a large ship may include electricians and machinery mechanics.
- For more details on this topic, see Maritime history of the United States.
The history of ships and shipping in North America goes back at least as far as when Leif Erikson established a short-lived settlement called Vinland in present day Newfoundland. An actual shipping industry gradually came into being as colonies grew and trade with Europe increased. As early as the 15th century, Europeans were shipping horses, cattle and hogs to the Americas.
Spanish colonies began to form as early as 1565 in places like St. Augustine, Florida, and later in Santa Fe, New Mexico, San Antonio, Tucson, San Diego, Los Angeles and San Francisco. English colonies like Jamestown began to form as early as 1607. The connection between the American colonies and Europe, with shipping as its only conduit, would continue to grow unhindered for almost two hundred years.
The first wartime role of an identifiable United States Merchant Marine first took place on June 12, 1775 in and around Machias, Maine. A group of citizens, hearing the news from Concord and Lexington, captured the British schooner HMS Margaretta. The citizens, in need of critical supplies, were given an ultimatum: either load the ships with lumber to build British barracks in Boston, or go hungry. They chose to fight.
Word of this revolt reached Boston, where the Continental Congress and the various colonies issued Letters of Marque to privateers The privateers interrupted the British supply chain all along the eastern seaboard of the United States and across the Atlantic Ocean. These actions by the privateers predates both the United States Coast Guard and the United States Navy, which were formed in 1790 and 1797, respectively.
The Merchant Marine was active in subsequent wars, from the Confederate commerce raiders of the American Civil War, to the First and Second Battle of the Atlantic in World War I and World War II. 3.1 million tons of merchant ships were lost in World War II, mariners dying at a rate of 1 in 24. All told, 733 American cargo ships were lost and 8,651 of the 215,000 who served perished on troubled waters and off enemy shores.
Merchant shipping also played its role in the wars in Vietnam and Korea. From just six ships under charter when the Korean war began, this total peaked at 255. In September 1950, when the U.S. Marine Corps went ashore at Inchon, 13 USNS cargo ships, 26 chartered American, and 34 Japanese-manned merchant ships, under the operational control of Military Sea Transportation Service participated in the invasion.
During the Vietnam War, ships crewed by civilian seamen carried 95% of the supplies used by the American Armed Forces. Many of these ships sailed into combat zones under fire. In fact, the SS Mayaguez incident involved the capture of mariners from the American merchant ship SS Mayaguez.
During the first Gulf War, the merchant ships of the Military Sealift Command (MSC) delivered more than 11 million metric tons of vehicles, helicopters, ammunition, fuel and other supplies and equipment during the war. At one point during the war, more than 230 government-owned and chartered ships were involved in the sealift.
Government owned merchant vessels from the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) have supported emergency shipping requirements in seven wars and crises. During the Korean War, 540 vessels were activated to support military forces. A worldwide tonnage shortfall from 1951 to 1953 required over 600 ship activations to lift coal to Northern Europe and grain to India. From 1955 through 1964, another 600 ships were used to store grain for the Department of Agriculture. Another tonnage shortfall following the Suez Canal closing in 1956 caused 223 cargo ship and 29 tanker activations from the NDRF. During the Berlin crisis of 1961, 18 vessels were activated, which remained in service until 1970. The Vietnam conflict required the activation of 172 vessels.
Since 1977, the Ready Reserve Fleet has taken over the brunt of the work previously handled by the National Defense Reserve Fleet. The RRF made a major contribution to the success of Operation Desert Shield/Operation Desert Storm from August 1990 through June 1992, when 79 vessels were activated to meet military sealift requirements by carrying 25% of the unit equipment and 45% of the ammunition needed.
Two RRF tankers, two RO/RO ships and a troop transport ship were needed in Somalia for Operation Restore Hope in 1993 and 1994. During the Haitian crisis in 1994, 15 ships were activated for Operation Uphold Democracy operations. In 1995 and 1996, four RO/RO ships were used to deliver military cargo as part of U.S. and U.K. support to NATO peace-keeping missions.
Four RRF ships were activated to provide humanitarian assistance for Central America following Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Three RRF ships currently support the Afloat Prepositioning Force with two specialized tankers and one dry cargo vessel capable of underway replenishment for the Navys Combat Logistics Force.
In 2003, 40 RRF ships were used in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. This RRF contribution was significant and included sealifting equipment and supplies into the theatre of combat operations, which included combat support equipment for the Army, Navy Combat Logistics Force, and USMC Aviation Support equipment. By the beginning of May 2005, RRF cumulative support included 85 ship activations that logged almost 12,000 ship operating days, moving almost 25% of the equipment needed to support the U.S. Armed Forces liberation of Iraq.
MSC is also involved in the current Iraq War, having delivered 61 million square feet (5.7 km²) of cargo and 1.1 billion US gallons (4,200,000 m³) of fuel by the end of the first year alone. Merchant mariners are being recognized for their contributions in Iraq. For example, in late 2003, Vice Adm. David Brewer III, commander of Military Sealift Command, awarded the officers and crewmembers of the Motor Vessel Bennett the Merchant Marine Expeditionary Medal.
The RRF was called upon to provide humanitarian assistance to gulf coast areas following Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita landfalls in September 2006. The Federal Emergency Management Agency requested a total of eight vessels to support relief efforts. Messing and berthing was provided for refinery workers, oils spill response teams, longshoremen. One of the vessels provided electrical power.
Today's merchant fleet
The commercial fleet
As of 2006, the United States merchant fleet had 465 privately-owned ships of 1,000 gross register tons or over. 291 of these were dry cargo ships, 97 were tankers, and 77 passenger ships. Of those American-flagged ships, 51 were foreign owned. Seven hundred American-owned ships are flagged in other nations.
With 33,222 privately owned ships of this size worldwide, the United States flag ranks number 22, just behind Cambodia. Panama, often criticized as being a flag of convenience country, is ranked in first place, with 5,473 ships carrying that flag.
2005 statistics from the United States Maritime Administration focus on the larger segment of the fleet: ships of 10,000 dead weight tons and over. 245 privately owned American-flagged ships are of this size, and 153 of those meet the Jones Act criteria.
The federal fleet
Military Sealift Command (MSC) is an arm of the Navy that serves the entire Department of Defense as the ocean carrier of materiel during peacetime and war. It transports equipment, fuel, ammunition, and other goods essential to the smooth function of United States armed forces worldwide. Up to 95% of all supplies needed to sustain the U.S. military can be moved by Military Sealift Command. MSC operates approximately 120 ships with 100 more in reserve. All ships are manned by civil service or contract merchant mariners.
The National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) acts as a reserve of cargo ships for national emergencies and defense. Consisting of 2,277 ships at its peak in 1950, the NDRF fleet now numbers only 251 ships.
NDRF vessels are now staged at the James River, Beaumont and Suisun Bay fleet sites and other designated locations. A Ready Reserve Force component of NDRF was established in 1976 to provide rapid deployment of military equipment. This force currently has 58 vessels, down from a peak of 102 in 1994.
In 2004, the Federal government employed approximately 5% of all water transportation workers, most of whom worked on Military Sealift Command supply ships.
A few laws have shaped the development of the U.S. Merchant Marine. Chief among them are the "Seamen's Act of 1915," the "Merchant Marine Act of 1920" (commonly referred to as the "Jones Act"), and the "Merchant Marine Act of 1936."
The Seamen's Act of 1915
- For more details on this topic, see Seamen's Act.
The Seaman's Act