Stumbled upon this interesting piece and discovered for myself that the situation with US merchant fleet is even grimmer than I expected.
“It’s been an 80 percent reduction in the overall global (U.S. military) footprint since circa 1990,” said Eric P. Ebeling, chief executive of American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier Group out of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey, the third-largest U.S. flag carrier in international trade. “When cargo goes down, that’s less cargo on U.S. flag ships.”
Obviously, the United States is a SLOC-dependent nation but, of course, naval, that is military, considerations are also at a prime and reflect a rather moribund concept of US Armed Forces fighting some conflict which would require a steady supply train of merchant marine vessels to Europe. It is a moribund doctrine since, while implying that US will be fighting in Europe (a suicidal scenario), presumably Russia, and will require an intense operations on Atlantic SLOCs, forgets how things changed since the good ol' Cold War 1.0. It doesn't mean that Russia will not try to interdict those Atlantic SLOCs, but as even some US experts admit:
Some experts said that in a world of hypersonic missiles, laser satellites and smart bombs, discussion of ships and long land wars may seem obsolete.“People today don’t have the same sense that they did in the 1950s or before then of the possibility of a large-scale conflict. They say, ‘Uh-uh, no way,’” said Seth Cropsey, a former deputy undersecretary of the Navy now affiliated with the Hudson Institute, a conservative think tank in Washington. For his part, Buzby said future conflicts will carry additional risk if the Pentagon must send cargo on foreign flagged vessels – especially if enemy vessels try to stop the supplies.“What other country is going to want to stand up and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll carry American stuff’ and get potentially shot at?” Buzby asked.
It has to be stated very clearly that the United States simply has no real resources to fight any REAL war against Russia in Europe, because:
1. Russians are absolutely not interested, nor intent, in attacking, or invading, or what have you, anything in Europe unless, see below...
2. NATO commits suicide and does attack Russia, as some people in D.C. and Brussels are convinced they can. Well, in this case no amount of supplies will help them. US simply has no military hardware for sustaining a large conventional combined arms war against such peer as Russia. Why so--is a separate issue here.
3. Russia is certainly not going to interdict Atlantic SLOCs in a peace time.
Reality, however, is rather simple and reduces all this strategic maritime (mambo-jumbo) talk to a few simple facts:
1. Mediterranean is already largely (Eastern and Central parts) "closed" for any combat activity and in case of real war (God forbids) will be closed up to Majorca or even Gibraltar by merely deploying a squadron of MiG-31K (yes, that is official now--MiG-31K) with Kinzhal to Khmeimim Base in Syria.
2. Northern "approaches" are also "controllable" both on water and on land by a variety of means ranging from already proverbial Kinzhal to a variety of stand-off land and ship attack weapons carried both by Russian Navy and VKS.
So, one may ask, what's left then for US Merchant Marine? The answer is simple--get competitive and try, by whatever means necessary, to restore American civil shipbuilding industry. In the end, the United States has some very legitimate commercial interests which are tied to SLOCs and nobody, at least not in the Atlantic, is going to mess with them. The faster this delusion that US can fight the war in Europe will be dispelled the better it will be for the shipbuilding industry. For now, however, this is a situation:
One move is afoot to stimulate shipyards by again requiring some energy exports to sail on U.S. flag vessels. Garamendi said he will introduce a bill in the House later this month that would require a growing percentage of LNG and other energy exports to move on U.S.-built ships, starting at only 1 percent and slowly rising to 30 percent.“We would simultaneously rebuild the American fleet and the ability of our shipyards to produce blue water ships,” Garamendi said.Shippers said the 2015 end to the ban on U.S. energy exports hit them hard.“It caused a huge reduction in the demand for American-flagged tankers. But nobody ever talks about that stuff in Congress,” said Crowley, who called the move “highly disruptive.”“Some companies scrapped ships,” he added.His own company laid up two tankers for up to a year for lack of work.“Everybody suffered because the revenue per ship dropped dramatically because there was more capacity,” Crowley said.
So, it is yet to be seen if the US, once mighty, merchant shipbuilding industry and Merchant Marine will recover, but there is very little doubt that this, unlike many insanely dubious and useless military programs, is a worthy goal to pursue. I, somehow, prefer economic competition to military one. As Garamendi's Bill state:
I have some news for Garamendi, however, "most powerful nations in the world" do not have 99% of their trade traveling on foreign ships. The faster this will be understood and BS mantras of American exceptionalism be dropped--the faster this nation will find much needed real economic recovery.