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October 5, 2008    DOL Home > Newsroom > Speeches & Remarks   

Speeches by Secretary Elaine L. Chao

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Remarks Prepared for Delivery by
U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao
National Maritime Day Celebration
Baltimore, Maryland
May 22, 2008

Thank you Admiral Allen [Thad Allen, Commandant, United States Coast Guard], Captain Kelley [Brian Kelley, Sector Commanding Officer, United States Coast Guard], Duff Hughes and Mrs. Hughes.

It is a pleasure to be here today to pay tribute to the United States Coast Guard and its role in facilitating maritime commerce, as we honor our nation's maritime heritage and the men and women who are the backbone of this key industry.

Since the inception of the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790, the United States Coast Guard has been facilitating maritime commerce. Since 1838, the United States Coast Guard has conducted more than 1.5 million vessel inspections. Indeed, the United States Coast Guard plays a vital role in promoting and ensuring maritime safety.

Today, the Commandant of the Coast Guard is launching a five-year Maritime Safety Plan. This plan will improve the Coast Guard marine safety program. Its goal is to make its safety program more responsive and effective for mariners and the maritime community — one that will be a model for other maritime nations around the world.

As Secretary of Labor, I'm pleased to be a part of this ceremony, which launches this new marine safety campaign.

Today's ceremony also highlights the significant contributions that the maritime industry is making to our country's economy and to national security.

Many good-paying jobs depend upon maritime trade. Our nation's energy, goods, and food are transported economically and efficiently by ship. The number of jobs created by the maritime industry extends well beyond those who crew the vessels that flow through our nation's ports. It includes the workers who produce the goods and services that supply our ports and the maritime industry. And in today's increasingly worldwide economy, the maritime industry connects businesses and consumers with valuable foreign markets and commodities.

Since the earliest years of our nation's history, merchant marines have selflessly answered the call to serve our country by transporting the equipment and goods that support our nation's military, often in perilous circumstances. One measure of their sacrifice is the fact that during World War II, the casualty rate for merchant mariners was second only to that of the Marine Corps.

Along with the United States Coast Guard, the merchant marine plays a vital role in humanitarian relief efforts. Here's just one example: after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, merchant mariners delivered urgently needed supplies to the devastated areas, provided assistance for oil spill cleanup, generated electricity, and provided meals and lodging for recovery workers and evacuees.

This strong desire to help others was clearly in evidence when, at the beginning of this new year, I had the pleasure of touring theAt the beginning of this new year, I had the pleasure of touring the United States Coast Guard station at Fort Lauderdale, Florida where I met BM3 Abren, BM2 Wayne, BM3 Urrego, MK2 Figuersa, LTJG Colleen Mullen and CDR Mike White. I was impressed by their youth, energy, enthusiasm and professionalism. They are emblematic of the fine men and women who serve in the United States Coast Guard. They make us proud. You all make us proud.

I might also add, even after they leave your service, "Coasties" are highly sought after in the civilian workforce: men like Tom DeBusk, Chief Administrative Officer in the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Labor.

So thank you for everything all of you are doing to preserve and protect this vital industry and its workers. And thank you for inviting me to participate in this annual National Maritime Day.

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