This program, officially known as the “Federal Ship Financing Guarantee Program”, was established under Title XI of the Merchant Marine Act of 1936. Its initial purpose was to assist U.S.-flag operators in obtaining private capital to build ships in American shipyards for both the U.S. foreign and the U.S. domestic trades. The government, through the Maritime Administration, guarantees payment of the underlying debt obligations, permitting the shipowner to obtain long-term financing at favorable interest rates. The U.S. government insures or guarantees full payment to the lender of the unpaid principal and interest of the mortgage obligation in the event of default by the vessel owners. Since it is a guarantee program, funds for the guaranteed debt obligations are obtained in the private sector. The main sources for such funds include banks, pension funds, life insurance companies, and notes or bonds sold to the general public.
Guarantees on the obligations are eligible to be granted for up to 87 1/2 percent of the vessel’s actual cost, as defined in Title XI regulations. Moreover, vessels eligible for Title XI guarantees are required to be of a design satisfactory to MarAd and includes passenger vessels, cargo vessels, tankers, tugs, towboats, dredges, barges, floating dry docks, oceanographic research vessels, and drilling rigs. The 103rd Congress enacted legislation amending the Title XI program to allow guarantees for vessels built for the export market. The legislation also authorized guarantees for shipyard modernization and improvement.
The Title XI program is self-sustaining. The Credit Reform Act of 1990 mandates that the Maritime Administration may only approve Title XI guarantees to the extent appropriations have been obtained to cover the estimated cost of the project to the government, as well as the administrative expenses of the entire program. The current portfolio is $1.7 billion in Title XI outstanding loan guarantees and 39 individual loan guarantee contracts, covering approximately 250 vessels (including drill rigs, tankers, barges, containerships, roll-on/roll-off vessels, fast ferries, passenger vessels, supply vessels, and tugs) to foster efficiency, competitive operations, and quality ship construction, repair and reconstruction. The President’s FY2015 budget requests $3.1 million for administration of the loan portfolio to ensure agency compliance with the Federal Credit Reform Act requirements, borrower compliance with loan terms, and to process new loan applications. However, the administration did not request any new funds for the program itself. The current Title XI subsidy balance for new loan applicants is $73 million. This will support approximately $735 million in shipyard projects assuming average risk category subsidy rates.