Senate Confirms Federal Maritime Commissioner

Max Vekich's membership on the Federal Maritime Commission shifts the five-member board to a 3-2 majority for Democrats. (What is Going on With Shipping? w/Sal Mercogliano via YouTube)

Posted on February 16, 2022

President Joe Biden’s nominee to serve on the Federal Maritime Commission recently was confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Max Vekich received 51 favorable votes and 43 opposing votes for a confirmation to become a commissioner through 2026. His membership on FMC shifts the five-member board to a 3-2 majority for Democrats.

Vekich is a former longshoreman who was elected to the Washington state House. During his confirmation process, he shared with senators his perspective about the industry.

“The maritime industry is a vital artery of our economy. All shippers need access to the services carriers provide,” he said. “Recent events have brought attention to challenges exporters face in securing containers for their goods and space aboard ships, as well as the high costs for transporting commodities.”

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, John Thune

Sens. Amy Klobuchar, John Thune

FMC has gained national attention amid growing concerns with supply chain bottlenecks. On Capitol Hill, policymakers are aiming to advance legislation meant to update the regulatory landscape for global shipping stakeholders. Legislation offered by Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and John Thune (R-S.D.), members of the Commerce Committee on freight affairs, takes aim at FMC.

The Senate’s Ocean Shipping Reform Act would require carriers to issue certain reports to the commission each quarter as well as authorize the commission to self-initiate certain investigations. It also would pave the way for the registration of shipping exchanges. The House recently passed its version of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act.

Pertaining to the nation’s supply chain, port stakeholders are rushing to enhance the flow of freight and the White House set up a task force to assist stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the Senate has yet to schedule consideration of other transportation nominees. Steven Cliff, Biden’s pick to lead the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, was approved by the Commerce Committee by a voice vote. He advanced to the Senate floor.

Each year, an epidemic of more than 38,000 deaths occurs on our nation’s roads.

NHTSA Deputy Administrator Steven Cliff

Steven Cliff

Cliff, presently NHTSA’s deputy administrator, has indicated he intends to dedicate efforts to boosting safety programs across the nation’s mobility corridors as well as maneuvering the regulatory landscape on the adoption of vehicle technologies.

“Traffic fatalities are on the rise. Each year, an epidemic of more than 38,000 deaths occurs on our nation’s roads,” Cliff recently told senators. Prior to NHTSA, Cliff was on the California Air Resources Board.

Also awaiting a vote in the Senate is John Putnam, nominee for general counsel at USDOT. The Commerce Committee also approved Putnam’s nomination.

The department’s deputy general counsel, Putnam addressed the trucking industry’s workforce concerns while emphasizing the “Biden-Harris Administration Trucking Action Plan to Strengthen America’s Trucking Workforce.”

“A primary objective is to implement rapidly the task force dedicated to expanding the pool of drivers by promoting the recruitment, inclusion and advancement of women in trucking established in the bipartisan infrastructure law,” Putnam told senators. “This task force will be the first of many strategies to help build the pipeline and diversify the trucking workforce.” American Trucking Associations estimates the industry is short 80,000 commercial drivers.

The Senate Commerce Committee also approved the nominations of retired Rear Admiral Ann Phillips to become administrator at the Maritime Administration and Victoria Wassmer to fill the role of chief financial officer at the U.S. Department of Transportation.

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