The House Marine Committee and Armed Services Committee have approved "Build and Charter" legislation that will enable the Navy to use surplus funds to build ships that can be chartered to private companies and be returned to the military if the need arises. Approximately $800 million are available, according to a spokesperson from the Merchant Marine Committee.
At the same time, the committees approved an amendment to the bill allowing the funds to be used for cruise ships.
The bill may become academic, however, as the representative who made the funds available may now suggest that they be used strictly for military purposes.
George Steinbrenner Plans Two U.S. Ships
Meanwhile, during the Senate Merchant Marine Committee's recent hearings on the long-debated reflagging issue, the American Ship Building Co. of Tampa announced its plans to build two ships in an American yard for operation in the Hawaiian islands. American Ship Building is owned by George Steinbrenner.
"The vessels will be built using the most modern techniques of ship construction and be the first ships built in American yards in 30 years," said a spokesperson from the company. "We expect to see the first ship in operation within 24 months."
The announcement cast doubt on arguments that American shipyards cannot be competitive with foreign yards.
There were no other surprises at the hearing, according to several spokes people. Proponents of reflagging held that it is the only way to revitalize the U.S. fleet, adding that it will provide more jobs for American yards and maritime workers. Opponents contested that it the proposed legislation favors just one company - Robert Lambert's Cruise america Ltd. - and that passage will jeopardize pending U.S. ventures.
The Maritime Administration came out in favor of the reflagging concept, and said that it will submit a revised version shortly.