THE MARITIME ADMINISTRATION has served notice to U.S. trading partners that Washington will no longer tolerate shipping policies that discriminate against U.S.-flag carriers. As the government agency charged with promoting the nation's merchant marine, Marad is acting completely within its scope of responsibility by taking such an initiative.
The fact is that the playing field in international shipping is not level. Many nations, especially those in the Far East, deny to U.S.-flag carriers basic privileges that their shipping companies enjoy in this country.Taiwan does not allow U.S. carriers to serve as their own agents, haul containers on the highways or operate their own container-handling equipment. In South Korea, U.S. carriers can not operate as their own agents, negotiate directly with ports or form a shipping association to deal with Korean officials.
Japan, which for many years prohibited U.S. shipping companies from carrying tobacco leaf imports there or Japanese car exports to the United States is finally beginning to modify such policies.
Operating restrictions increase the cost of doing business, and reduce the competitiveness of U.S.-flag carriers. Reginald A. Bourdon, director of international activities at Marad, esti mated that in Taiwan alone, U.S. shipping companies, in aggregate, incur between $8 million and $9 million a year in additional costs because of such restrictions.
Maritime Administrator John Gaughan recently led a trade mission to the Far East andinformed government officials there that the playing field has been tilted in their favor for too long, and changes are needed.
Other nations must realize that trade with the United States is as much our trade as it is theirs. If they wish to continue enjoying unrestricted access to U.S. markets, not only for their products but also for services such as shipping, trucking and terminal operations, they must afford U.S.-flag carriers the same rights their shipping companies are granted here.
Mr. Gaughan promised to keep the pressure on these nations to lift operating restrictions on U.S. shipping companies. He deserves the full support of the maritime community in this effort.