Portal:United States Merchant Marine

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The United States Merchant Marine Portal

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The United States Merchant Marine consists of the nation's fleet of non-military merchant ships and their crews. Operated by the government or by private owners, these ships transport goods and passengers both domestically and internationally. In time of war, the merchant marine is an auxiliary to the United States Navy, and can be called upon to deliver troops and supplies for the military.

As of 2006, the United States merchant fleet consisted of 465 ships above 1,000 gross tonnage crewed by some 69,000 merchant mariners. Seven hundred ships owned by American interests but registered in other countries under flags of convenience are not included in this number.

The federal government maintains fleets of merchant ships via organizations such as Military Sealift Command and the National Defense Reserve Fleet. In 2004, the Federal government employed approximately 5% of all American water transportation workers.

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Capt. Joshua Slocum made the first solo circumnavigation of the world

Joshua Slocum (February 20, 1844 – on or shortly after 14 November 1909) was a Canadian-American seaman, adventurer, writer, and the first man to sail alone around the world. He disappeared in November 1909 aboard his boat the Spray in the Strait of Magellan.

Slocum was born in Mount Hanley Annapolis County, Nova Scotia on the North Mountain and in sight of the Bay of Fundy. Slocum was fifth of eleven children of John and Sarah Jane Slocum. His father, an American Quaker who left the U.S.due to his opposition to the American War for Independence.

As a boy, he tried to run away from home several times. At age 14, he succeeded, briefly working as a cabin boy and cook on a fishing schooner, before returning home. After his mother's death in 1860, Slocum left home for good. He and a friend signed on at Halifax as ordinary seamen on a merchant ship bound for Dublin, Ireland.

From Dublin, he continued to Liverpool and then to China as an ordinary seaman on the British merchant ship Tangier. During two years as a seaman, he rounded Cape Horn twice, landed at ports such as Batavia, the Moluccas, Manila, Hong Kong, Saigon, Singapore, and San Francisco. By the age of eighteen he rose to the rank of Second Mate. He quickly advanced to the position of Chief Mate on coal and grain ships running between the Britain and San Francisco.

In 1865, Slocum settled in San Francisco and became an American citizen. After a period of salmon fishing and fur trading in the Oregon Territory, he returned to the sea to pilot a schooner in the coastwise trade between San Francisco and Seattle. His took his first blue-water command in 1869, on the barque Washington, which he sailed from San Francisco to Australia, and home via Alaska. He sailed out of San Francisco for thirteen years, and between 1869 and 1889, captained eight vessels, four of which he had an ownership stake in.

In 1900 he told the story of his singlehanded circumnavigation in his book Sailing Alone Around the World. In November 1909 Slocum set sail for a winter trip to the West Indies, and was never heard from again. In July, 1910 his wife informed the newspapers she believed him lost at sea. In 1924 Joshua Slocum was declared legally dead.


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The crew launches a lifeboat in calm seas for refresher training.

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Sergeant First Class Lawrence Joel (February 22, 1928–February 4, 1984) was an American military veteran. He served in the United States Army in both the Korean War and the Vietnam War. While serving in Viet Nam, as a medic assigned to 1st Battalion of the 503rd Infantry in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, Joel received the Silver Star and the Medal of Honor for his heroism in a battle with the Viet Cong that occurred on November 8, 1965. He was the first living black American to receive this medal since the Spanish-American War in 1898.

Born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Joel attended city public schools, including Atkins High School, and joined the Merchant Marines for one year. In 1946, at age 18, Joel decided to join the United States Army, making a career out of it. He enlisted in New York City.


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Motor Vessel Baffin Strait


The U.S. Fleet

Ships registered in U.S.: As of 2006, 465 ships of 1,000 gross register tons (GRT) or over were registered under the Flag of the United States. This amounts to a total of 10,590,325 GRT, or a capacity of 13,273,133 metric tons of deadweight (DWT). Of these, 414 are owned by American interests and 51 are owned by foreign interests. Australian owners account for 2 of these ships, Canadaian 4, Danish 24, German 2, Greek 1, Malaysian 4, Dutch 4, Norwegian 2, Singaporean 2, Swedish 5, and Taiwanese 1.

Dry Cargo Ships Tanker ships
Bulk ships 67 Chemical tanker ships 20
Barge carrier 7 Specialized tanker ships 1
Cargo ship 91 Petroleum tanker ships 76
Container ships 76
Roll-on/Roll-off ships 27 Passenger ships
Refrigerated cargo ships 3 General passenger ships 19
Vehicle carrier 20 Combined passenger/cargo 58

U.S.-owned ships registered abroad (700): Antigua and Barbuda 7, Australia 3, Bahamas 121, Belize 5, Bermuda 27, Cambodia 8, Canada 2, Cayman Islands 41, Comoros 2, Cyprus 7, Greece 1, Honduras 1, Hong Kong 21, Ireland 2, Isle of Man 3, Italy 15, North Korea 3, South Korea 7, Liberia 93, Luxembourg 3, Malta 3, Marshall Islands 143, Netherlands 13, Netherlands Antilles 1, Norway 13, Panama 94, Peru 1, Philippines 8, Portugal 1, Puerto Rico 3, Qatar 1, Russia 1, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 21, Sierra Leone 1, Singapore 7, Spain 7, Sweden 1, Trinidad and Tobago 1, United Kingdom 6, Vanuatu 1, Wallis and Futuna 1.

Source: The 2006 CIA World Factbook which, as a US government publication, is in the public domain.

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