Cargo Preference Requirements:

Their Impact on U.S. Food Aid Programs and the U.S. Merchant Marine

NSIAD-90-174: Published: Jun 19, 1990. Publicly Released: Jun 26, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed cargo preference laws, focusing on the: (1) cost and timeliness of U.S. food aid shipments; (2) amount of government cargo transported on U.S.-flag vessels; and (3) changes in the number of U.S. merchant marine vessels and support personnel over the past 10 years.

GAO found that: (1) the average cost to ship food aid to foreign countries on U.S.-flag vessels has decreased over the past several years; (2) shipping costs have decreased because of liberalized cargo preference requirements and increased shipping efficiency; (3) U.S.-flag vessels did not always provide timely service; (4) the amount of government cargo transported on U.S.-flag vessels has increased nearly 67 percent since 1980, and food aid has doubled; (5) despite the increases, the number of U.S.-flag vessels has decreased by 24 percent, and the number of support personnel has decreased by about 31 percent; (6) active shipping capacity has only decreased 6.5 percent because newer ships are larger and hold more cargo; and (7) the newer ships required fewer personnel to load, operate, and maintain.

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