Richard Nixon photo

Statement Announcing Award of Contracts for the Construction of 16 Merchant Ships

July 01, 1972

I AM PLEASED to announce today the award of nearly $660 million in contracts for the construction of 16 new, advanced design merchant ships in five U.S. shipyards. This action makes an important contribution to my continuing program to revitalize the American merchant marine.

In addition to adding 16 new ships to our merchant fleet, these five contracts will bring more than 18,000 man-years of work to the five shipyards--at Baltimore, Md., San Diego and San Pedro, Calif., Brooklyn, N.Y., and Bath, Maine--plus an additional 18,000 man-years of work in supporting industries supplying steel and machinery.

My new program for a new American merchant marine--embodied in the Merchant Marine Act of 1970---is designed to restore our merchant fleet to a vigorous, competitive position on the high seas, and to restore employment and profit in our shipping and shipbuilding industries at home.

Today's awards, plus the other contracts which have been signed for other new or remodeled ships under my program, will bring us measurably closer to those two important economic goals.

The United States, as the leading Nation engaged in world trade, must in its own self-interest have a merchant marine commensurate with its large stake in international commerce. This Administration has a firm commitment, which we are fulfilling, to restore the United States to the rank of a first-class maritime power.

Today's awards, when added to the previous contracts under my program, make a grand total so far of $1.1 billion in new or modernized merchant ships. In keeping with Federal policy of assisting the American shipbuilding industry to compete effectively against lower cost competitors abroad, the Government is bearing $479 million of the overall total cost.

I am pleased to note, however, that the percentage of subsidy is dropping, as I urged in announcing my new program. These new contracts, for example, will require 43 percent subsidy as compared with the 55 percent which was permitted prior to my program.

This is clear and heartening evidence that the U.S. shipbuilding industry will meet the challenge I offered: To rebuild our merchant fleet at reasonable cost, which is a vital necessity in these years of close attention to Federal budget demands.

While paring costs and subsidies, however, we are getting the best. One of today's contracts involves the construction of three van-type freighters which will be the largest of their type ever built in this country. Another calls for construction of three modern tankers which are the largest ships ever ordered in the United States.

The American merchant marine and the industries and workers which support it clearly are on their way to a promising new era of modern and competitive American merchant shipping.

Note: On the same day, the President met at the White House with maritime union officials, shipowners, and shipbuilders to discuss progress in the U.S. maritime program.

The White House also released a fact sheet and the transcript of a news briefing on merchant ship construction contracts. Participants in the news briefing were Peter G. Peterson, Secretary, Andrew E. Gibson, Assistant Secretary, and Robert J. Blackwell, Acting Assistant Secretary for Maritime Affairs, Department of Commerce.

Richard Nixon, Statement Announcing Award of Contracts for the Construction of 16 Merchant Ships Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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