As our world persists during this global pandemic, we must recognize the essential services performed by our nation’s maritime workers to keep commerce moving, products loaded and delivered and our economy supported during a time of great peril.
Today is National Maritime Day, which commemorates the 201st anniversary of the crossing of the steamship Savannah — the first transatlantic crossing by a motorized vessel. This remarkable event revolutionized maritime transportation. No longer were ships subject to the vagaries of the wind — they could deliver goods on a fixed schedule.
Technology is continuing to improve our maritime industry and has revolutionized the method and economics of shipping goods globally. Over time, shipping evolved into an intermodal transportation system that links ships, ports, highways and railroads into a national transportation system. Today, 60 percent of the world’s goods (by value) are shipped by container.
Ships also are vital to the United States’ industrial base. Iron, coke, coal and other minerals are shipped across the Great Lakes in 1,000-foot ships destined for the steel mills and other heavy industries in the heartland of America. Meanwhile, thousands of tugs and their barges are moving grain and other agricultural products down the Mississippi River System for export and bringing oil and other chemicals upriver to support cities and communities in that region.
The tanker trade accounts for almost 30 percent of the volume of maritime trade globally. In the United States, tankers moved more than 70 billion ton-miles of crude and refined product each year.
General, fruit, wind, bulk, oil and chemical cargoes continue to be a vital component of the ports of Galveston and Texas City, serving consumers in Texas and our region. The ports of Galveston and Texas City remain operating throughout this global pandemic, even with the temporary pause of the cruise business and the impact of oil prices around the world.
We recognize the men and women of the Galveston/Texas City Pilots, the U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as all those involved in the daily operations of the ports of Galveston and Texas City to keep waterborne commerce flowing throughout the region and keep our economy moving.
National Maritime Day is about people. The men and women who leave their families to operate ships in the United States and around the globe for weeks and months at a time. Without their sacrifice, trade would come to a standstill. Those that risk their lives to move military supplies deserve particular praise.
On March 13, President Trump signed into law the Merchant Mariners of World War II Gold Medal Act of 2020. This resolution recognizes the vital contributions that merchant mariners made to the Allied victory in World War II. Later this year, the leaders of Congress will present the gold medal to the American Merchant Marine Museum on behalf of all of the mariners who sailed during World War II.
Those who work in the industry understand the importance of the maritime transportation system. But just 10 miles inland many people see ships without knowing how important they are for our national defense and global economy.
Finally, to the doctors, nurses and first responders throughout the area, we thank you for your service. We appreciate all you have done and continue to do to keep us safe and take care of us all.