Testimony of Arthur J. Volkle, Jr. Piracy against U.S. Flag Vessels: Lessons Learned House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Committee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation May 20, 2009
Thank you for the opportunity to testify before the Committee this morning on an issue of great concern to our Company, and to all U.S. flag operators engaged in international trade.
I am Skip Volkle, Vice President of America Cargo Transport, Inc. (“ACTC”), as well as Vice President and General Counsel of Marine Resources Group, Inc. (“MRG”). In addition to ACTC, MRG owns seven other tug and barge companies. Our companies operate around the world. We are in turn a subsidiary of Saltchuk Resources, Inc., which owns our sister companies Totem Ocean Trailer Express, Sea Star Lines, and Interocean American Shipping. Collectively, we operate one of the largest shipping enterprises under the U.S. flag
ACTC operates both tug/barge units and ships in international trade, primarily carrying U.S. government cargoes, both military and food aid. We have tug/barge units engaged in continuous shuttle service in the Persian Gulf, tug/barge units carrying food aid cargoes in the Caribbean and West Africa, and we operate Ro-Ro ships carrying primarily military cargoes from the U.S. through the Gulf of Aden into the Persian Gulf.
Our primary concern as we operate in these waters is to assure the safety and security of our crews. We strongly believe that the most effective way to protect our seamen and our vessels from the piracy threat in the Gulf of Aden is to provide armed security, and we have been arming our vessels for a number of years. In fact, until recently we were the only U.S. flag operator not on charter to the military to provide armed security aboard its vessels. On at least one occasion, our security policy has been effective in deterring an attack by pirates. Fortunately, the deterrence resulted merely from a display of arms, without actually having to use deadly force. Both the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard have recognized the efficacy of armed security in protecting against pirate threats.