Statement of Joseph C. Cox: Hearing on the Law of the Sea Convention (October 4, 2007)
The Law of the Sea Convention establishes a legal framework that has direct impact on the American shipowning community and all Americans. In 1914, the maritime world was a comparatively simple one; ships flying a particular flag were manned by nationals from that nation, were insured there and classed by the national class society. They were most likely built there and had equipment manufactured there. The traditional law of the sea was also simple to apply. Today, the situation is more complex. Ships owned by one company can fly the flags of several different nations, employ crew from various nations with mixed crews being more prevalent than single-national ships, be classed by any one of a number of societies, be insured in any number of venues and have a multiple of other international mixes involving equipment and building. This situation has evolved in response to the needs of the industry to increase efficiency. As we have increased our efficiency, we have provided a lower and lower cost service to our customers. Our customers are the shippers of the world and their customers are the consumers. Over ninety-five percent of the goods shipped into and out of the United States go by sea. On average, four hundred ships a day, from literally all flag nations of the world, arrive in U.S. ports. The people of the United States have benefited from the actions of the maritime industry and we in the industry have benefited from a uniform legal framework. One consistent comment we make to the Congress, and the various legislative bodies around the world is that we need to have a uniform set of rules to follow. If each nation develops their own rules or interprets existing regulations in a manner substantially different from others, chaos exists for the maritime community. The United States has consistently responded to creative interpretations and has taken the lead in developing rules that meet U.S. needs and the needs of other nations. The world looks to our leadership in these matters and we have responded vigorously and positively to that expectation. The credibility of the U.S. in international fora where these agreements are made depends on it.
Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, freedom of the seas and rights of innocent passage are not theoretical concepts. These are critical aspects of the Law of the Sea Convention and ones that we rely on for the effective operation of our industry. We are very concerned with protection of those rights. Both US flag ships and ships owned or operated by American companies are impacted by international events. We rely on our nation to be actively involved. The U.S. should place itself in the most effective position to be a force for adherence to treaty obligations by all. We can do this by acceding to the treaty.
My members operate in the international maritime world. We benefit from a consistent application of the rules that we have to follow. There are certainly fewer ships flying our flag than in years past although that does not mean we are less involved as a nation. The latest figures we have seen place the United States as the sixth largest shipowning nation in the world. In recent months, we have seen actions by companies that will lead to more American seafarers serving on ships that fly the flags of other nations. Clearly we have a lot at stake.