The U.S. is on record for a strong merchant marine after the war. But the Maritime Commission’s team of Admirals Emory S. Land & Howard L. Vickery have made it clear thatthis goal is no threat to any other maritime power. The most that U.S.shipowners hope for is to maintain a fleet large enough to carry atleast 50% of U.S. water-borne commerce. That, for a nation which by theend of 1944 will have built 50 million tons of ships in seven years,seems like a reasonable objective to “Jerry” Land.
Last week, in Manhattan, Shipman Land went still farther to sootheforeign ship operators, alarmed at the renaissance of the U.S. as amaritime power. Speaking at the annual meeting of the Propeller Cluband American Merchant Marine Conference, the bluff Admiral proposed aninternational conference to study the shipping needs of each nation,with an attempt to limit fleets to prevent over-tonnage of world traderoutes and disastrous rivalries.
This proposal may well shock rugged, shell-backed shipping men whocherish the tradition of freedom of the seas. But to owners abroad whohave lost most of their prewar vessels, Land’s proposal made sense.
Another Propeller Club speaker who broke with established custom wasHenry J. Kaiser. Miracleman Kaiser’s plans for the future shocked someshipowners: he spoke for the operation of U.S. merchant ships withoutsubsidies. Said he bluntly: “Subsidies create depressions.”The Kaiser method: cut costs by paying crews a minimum wage, butgiving each seaman a share in the profits earned by the ships theyserve on. Said Kaiser, serving notice on the shipowner audience thatthe Kaiser empire may start its own shipping company: “. . . Whether itbe labeled ‘publicity’ or not … it will be my personal endeavor tooperate a company on this basis in the postwar world.”