The Merchant Marine Problem

October 17, 1925

Report Outline
The Recent Course of World Trade
Outlays for Transportation Service
The World Surplus of Ships
Post-War Ship Construction Amd Launchings
The American Shipping Situation
Handicaps to American Shipping

The current controversy between the Shipping Board and president Goolidge points to the necessity for a redefinition of American shipping policy by Congress. No effective solution of the larger problem reflected in this controversy appears possible until Congress either modifies the aims set out in the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 or provides adequate means for developing and maintaining “a privately-owned merchant marine sufficient to carry the greater portion of the foreign commerce of the United States.” The means provided to this end in the legislation of five years ago have thus far proved wholly inadequate to the purpose.

The fundamental question which sooner or later will confront Congress in its dealing with the shipping problem, from whatever angle it may be attacked at the outset, is whether Government operation of a major portion of the merchant fleet, to safeguard against a return to the pre-war condition of dependence on foreign shipping, shall be continued as a permanent or a semipermanent policy. The only alternative thus far proposed, if the aims set out in the Merchant Marine Act are not to be abandoned, is the provision of direct aids to private shipping in the form of subventions and subsidies.

Subjects for Consideration by Congress

In choosing between subsidies to private owners and long continued Government operation, both involving heavy expense to the taxpayers and neither commanding any large amount of direct public support, —or developing new proposals in substitute for the compromise legislation of 1920—Congress must consider the question of national defense, the foreign trade situation, world shipping conditions and many other complicated factors which are involved in the general merchant marine problem. It will have in addition to consider such incidental matters as the Seaman's Act, the coastal and intercostals trades, the tariff on shipbuilding materials and ship repairs, American registry for foreign built vessels, and codification and revision of the navigation and admiralty laws.

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