Statement on Signing the Maritime Act of 1981

August 6, 1981

On several occasions during my campaign for the Presidency, I expressed my support for a strong merchant marine and maritime industry. We must have a strong merchant marine capable of meeting both our peacetime need for transportation of resources and products and our need for logistical support in time of national emergency.

The merchant marine and the maritime industry of our country need effective leadership and direction. I have promised that my administration will provide the leadership and direction for a strong merchant marine. The process of correcting the problems of the maritime industry, however, will be difficult and will take time. There are no quick fixes. Vision and innovation accompanied by a spirit of cooperation, sacrifice, and compromise by all segments of the industry, labor, and government are essential if we are to succeed.

I am pleased to sign H.R. 4074, a bill which transfers the Maritime Administration to the Department of Transportation. This organizational change is a signficant achievement and will be of assistance in considering the maritime industry as part of a comprehensive national transportation system. This is of particular importance in view of the recent innovations in marine transportation that have resulted in greater integration of land and water transportation modes.

Associated with this transfer of the Maritime Administration, I have designated the Secretary of Transportation, Drew Lewis, as my administration's spokesman on maritime matters. Not only do I consider this designation essential to addressing effectively the problems of the industry but also to resolving a frequently expressed desire of both the Congress and the industry for a single focal point for maritime matters within the executive branch.

I extend my thanks to all those who cooperated to develop and enact this legislation in less than two months. I would particularly like to recognize the efforts of Senator Packwood, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, and Congressman Jones, chairman of the Merchant Marine and Fisheries Committee, for their invaluable assistance and cooperation, and would like to acknowledge as well the significant contributions of Senator Slade Gorton, Senator Daniel Inouye, Congressman Gene Snyder, Congressman Mario Biaggi, and Congressman Paul McCloskey, whose work on this legislation was an outstanding example of bipartisan cooperation. I thank those members of the industry who expressed their strong support for this legislation and hope that we can continue to build on this cooperative spirit to resolve the pressing problems of the industry.

Note: As enacted, H.R. 4074 is Public Law 97 - 31, approved August 6.