PUZZLED, WITH REASON

THE HEAD OF THE MARITIME ADMINISTRATION, John Gaughan, told of the agency's policies and objectives in explaining its budget to the House Merchant Marine Subcommittee last week. He endorsed "existing" cargo preference programs, aggressive action on trade barriers, subsidy reform and overhauling the Title XI program for ship loans and mortgages, building up the "working" U.S. merchant fleet in preference to the so-called ready reserve and correcting manpower shortfalls.

Later, the subcommittee chairman, Mario Biaggi, D-N.Y., said: "I'm puzzled. The things you said, we agree with, but it's not happening. All I see are increased bankruptcies and a steady decline in vessel operations."Edward V. Hickey, Jr., chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission, testifying on the FMC budget request, pointed to the huge increase in rate change filings - more than 3 million are expected this year - and the FMC's greater responsibility in monitoring trade practices of foreign nationsseeking to bolster their fleets at the expense of American-flag lines. Yet, he added, the Commission's "workforce" has been slashed 35 percent in the past six years.

Mr. Biaggi is not alone in his puzzlement.

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