Lyndon B. Johnson photo

Remarks by Telephone for the Keel-Laying Ceremony of the First Automated Cargo Ship.

January 16, 1964

Members of Congress, officials of the Department of Commerce and the Federal Maritime Administration, representatives of organized labor, officers of the companies which are cooperating in the construction of the SS Louise Lykes, my fellow Americans:

I take great pleasure in participating in this historic ceremony. A little over a hundred years ago, the merchant marine, with their beautiful clipper ships, gave our Nation the maritime leadership of the world. Today, we inaugurate a new generation of clipper ships. It offers the bright promise of a rebirth of American maritime leadership.

To meet the challenge of foreign competition, we need efficient vessels of advance design with low operating costs. Today, we carry less than 10 percent of our trade in American bottoms. That percentage must be increased.

A strong merchant marine is a guarantee of national security and a guarantee of economic stability. Some have called it the fourth arm of national defense.

Even at its present level, it earns or conserves almost $1 billion of foreign exchange dollars every year, making it a major factor in our balance of payments position in the world.

The vessel we begin today will apply the techniques of automatic operation to oceangoing cargo ships. Operating costs will be substantially reduced so that we can meet competition offered by the flags of other nations, and we can still pay better salaries to our own seamen.

Subsidies of as much as $2 million a vessel can be eliminated. This will mean savings in excess of $500 million to the taxpayer. Shipping rates can be reduced, thereby greatly encouraging our exports which we need to encourage so much.

So, my friends, this is truly a notable beginning. It is a great tribute to the statesmanship of both labor and management. They have worked together--both of them-for the benefit of all mankind. So, I should like to believe this morning that from this moment will come pride in what we are actively doing and benefits from what we will definitely achieve.

I hope that all of you who participate in this ceremony in decades from now can in retrospect look back and be proud, proud that you were a part of it, proud that it was a part of the American effort.

May the pressing of this button be both a renewal of leadership and the herald of new craftsmanship. At this moment, the future becomes today.

Note: The President spoke by telephone from the Cabinet Room at the White House at 12 noon. Among the participants in the ceremony, held at the Avondale Shipyard, New Orleans, La., were officials of the Lykes Bros. Steamship Company, owners of the cargo ship. Solon B. Turman, chairman of the board, responded briefly to the President's remarks. The text of his response was also released.

Lyndon B. Johnson, Remarks by Telephone for the Keel-Laying Ceremony of the First Automated Cargo Ship. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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