Kathy Metcalf

CEO, Chamber of Shipping of America

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Helen Bentley

Congresswoman, Former Federal Maritime Commission Chairman

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Clara Gordon Main

WWII Merchant Marine

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Deborah Doane Dempsey

A woman of many firsts

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The American Maritime Heroes campaign is a star-spangled celebration of the men and women who have made extraordinary contributions to the rich history of the United States of America as a maritime nation.

Since the colonial era, Americans have used the nation’s vast coastlines and waterways to transport essential cargo. To this day, American vessels and their crews are indispensable to our national economy and homeland security, as well as our military might. In short, their success is our success.

With this campaign, the American Maritime Partnership is excited to honor specific individuals and groups of individuals from across the nation for their heroic commitment to growing, improving and supporting the domestic maritime industry that benefits all Americans.

Those recognized as heroes will come from many different backgrounds and be credited for a variety of achievements. What unites these heroes is that they all have made – or are making – a positive difference in the still-unfolding history of American maritime.

This year-long celebration will begin on June 5, 2019, and is designed to culminate on the 100th anniversary of the enactment of the U.S. Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, on June 5, 2020. The Jones Act is a fundamental law that for nearly a century, along with related coastwise laws, has ensured that all vessels transporting goods between U.S. ports are American-built, -flagged, -owned, and -crewed. Moreover, it ensures a qualified pool of mariners to crew American vessels, enables the readiness of the nation’s defense shipbuilding industrial base and sealift capabilities, and sustains our strategic seaports for times of war or national emergencies

American Maritime Heroes is meant to remind all Americans that the hardworking men and women of the Jones Act fleet are, like the law itself, as undeniably important as ever for America’s security and prosperity.


The Service

The Domestic U.S. Maritime Industry

American Vessels Built in American Shipyards
gross domestic product
$154 billion
in Annual Economic Output
american jobs
Sustained American Jobs
cargo transported
1 billion
Tons of Cargo Transported Annually

The Jones Act, an anchor for U.S. economic and national and homeland security interests, requires the transportation of merchandise between two U.S. points to be carried out by American-built, -flagged, -owned, and -crewed vessels.

Supported by broad bipartisan majorities in Congress and top U.S. national defense officials, the law facilitates a strong and vibrant domestic American maritime industry, which helps ensure the United States maintains its expertise in shipbuilding and waterborne transportation. The U.S. Navy’s position is clear – repeal of the Jones Act would “hamper [America’s] ability to meet strategic sealift requirements and Navy shipbuilding.”

Moreover, the Jones Act ensures that the vessels navigating our coastal and inland waterways are subject to U.S. laws and operate under the oversight of the U.S. government. As was noted by the Lexington Institute in a 2011 report, “Were the Jones Act not in existence, [the Department of Homeland Security] would be confronted by the difficult and very costly task of monitoring, regulating, and overseeing all foreign-controlled, foreign-crewed vessels in internal U.S. waters.”

The Jones Act sustains nearly 650,000 American jobs across all 50 states and annually contributing $154 billion to the nation’s economy. An impressive five indirect jobs are created for every one direct domestic maritime job, which results in more than $41 billion in labor compensation.

More than 40,000 American vessels, built in American shipyards, crewed by American mariners, and owned by American companies, comprise this domestic fleet. They move nearly one billion tons of cargo annually – or roughly a quarter of the nation’s freight – along U.S. internal waterways, across the Great Lakes, and over the oceans to Hawaii, Alaska, and Puerto Rico. Shipped goods include a variety of products, from raw materials and commodities like coal and crude oil to consumer products that fill the grocery store shelves nationwide.

As a result, the domestic American maritime industry plays an important role in relieving congestion on the nation’s crowded roads and railways, offering one of the most efficient and economical means of transportation in the world. American carriers have proven to be some of the most creative and innovative in the world, building the first in the world self-unloading bulk vessels, articulated tug-barges, and LNG-powered containerships. American ingenuity also created containerization, which changed global commerce.

The U.S. Merchant Marine

The U.S. Merchant Marine is a vital part of the domestic maritime industry and is recognized as “The Fourth Arm of National Defense,” having served the United States in every war since 1776. A fleet of commercial and government U.S. flagged ships, crewed by licensed American mariners, are available to meet military transportation needs.

The majority of today’s merchant mariners work in the private sector, but are committed to always answering the call of duty. That is why the U.S. Merchant Marine flag reads “In War and Peace.”  These mariners are inherent heroes – with over 11,000 merchant mariners killed in the Revolutionary War and over 8,000 killed in World War II.

“[Mariners] have written one of its most brilliant chapters. They have delivered the goods when and where needed in every theater of operations and across every ocean in the biggest, the most difficult and dangerous job ever undertaken. As time goes on, there will be greater public understanding of our merchant’s fleet record during [World War II].”
– President Franklin D. Roosevelt

Submit a nominee

As we celebrate our American maritime heroes this centennial year, we encourage you to join us by submitting a nomination.

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