Posted: 10/12/2012 01:03:41 AM PDT
For U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, his department involves a lot more than trains, planes and highways.
LaHood reaffirmed that belief by spending Thursday morning at Vallejo's California Maritime Academy, a school on the forefront of training students for the maritime industry.
"Over the last four years we've taken a lot of interest in the maritime industry," LaHood said, adding he included the short visit to the California State University campus as part of a larger California trip.
LaHood was expected to tour BART stations and other facilities in San Francisco later Thursday.
He was also expected to announce this morning at the Suisun Bay Reserve Fleet north of Benicia that the Maritime Administration would award $392,913 to Cal Maritime stemming from proceeds of the sale of old obsolete ships in the Mothball Fleet.
Besides Thursday's tour, LaHood was on hand to commission new Cal Maritime President Thomas Cropper as a Rear Admiral in the United States Merchant Service, a requirement of his new position.
Following the short ceremony, LaHood toured the Golden Bear training ship and the school's simulation center, and spoke to students in a leadership conference. He also took a look at the Golden Bear's ballast water treatment facility and watched an demonstration of Cal Maritime's navigation and engine laboratories.
LaHood was accompanied by David Matsuda, chief of the U.S. Department of Transportation Maritime Administration, and a small entourage of security officers and other officials.
LaHood is the first U.S. Secretary of Transportation to visit the campus, an action which gives the institution some clout, Cropper said.
"It's wonderful. We have a lot of confidence in our cadets and our programs. This reaffirms our confidence," Cropper said.
"The maritime industry has such broad implications for future employment in the state of California. They understand that," he added.
LaHood told cadets assembled in Rizza Auditorium that their future is bright and that his administration has invested in the maritime industry, including infrastructure improvements at several ports.
A new policy document, the Maritime Highway Plan, also outlines investments needed to invigorate the global maritime industry, he said.
Further, a new channel in the Panama Canal is generating considerable interest among ports the world over in expanding their capacities and depths, he said.
Investment in transportation is one area state senior transportation consultant Norman Fassler-Katz said is crucial. The consultant for State Sen. Alan Lowenthal was among the 100-plus crowd assembled on the Vallejo campus for LaHood's visit.
"The biggest issue for us is that there has to be clear federal freight policy in the next transportation bill and more funding sources, too," Fassler-Katz said.
LaHood said his department has made maritime industry investments a high priority, and he would try for more money in the next funding cycle.
Contact staff writer Sarah Rohrs at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 553-6832. Follow her on Twitter @SarahVTH.