Addressing Merchant Mariner Shortfall – Shoring Up Sealift Capacity

This timely article highlights the ongoing shortage of Merchant Mariners facing this country at an especially crucial time. One readily implementable, tried-and-true solution would be to increase the class size at the nation’s federal maritime academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy (USMMA).

USMMA is the only federal service academy that educates and graduates licensed Merchant Marine officers. It is also the only maritime school in which 100 percent of graduates earn a Bachelor of Science degree, attain a Merchant Marine license, and incur an obligation to serve their country for eight years as an active or reserve officer in the U.S. armed forces.

USMMA supplies 80 percent of the officers in the U.S. Navy’s Strategic Sealift Officer (SSO) Force. In peacetime, these U.S. Navy-commissioned officers execute training exercises and other activities to promote strategic sealift readiness. In times of national defense or emergency, the SSO Force ensures our nation has a sufficient number of service-obligated Merchant Marine officers.

In prior years, incoming USMMA classes were adjusted as the needs of the nation demanded. It is time to expand enrollment to solve this dire personnel shortage – not only will this increase the number of qualified Mariners entering the maritime workforce, USMMA graduates – all of them already military reserve officers – can be counted on to serve should a conflict erupt.