The Jones Act is the body of U.S. maritime law that guarantees that America’s domestic waterborne commerce will be controlled by American companies operating United States-flag vessels built in American shipyards and crewed by American merchant mariners. Enacted in 1920, there is a good reason why it remains a cornerstone of American maritime policy: no domestic maritime policy does more to protect and strengthen America’s economic, military and homeland security than the Jones Act.
Today, there are those in and out of government who are suggesting that the requirements of the Jones Act be weakened or repealed. These individuals and organizations contend that the United States and the American people would somehow be better off if foreign owned and foreign flag vessels, built in foreign shipyards and operated by foreign mariners, controlled America’s domestic waterborne commerce. If they had their way, foreign vessels built in foreign shipyards, owned by foreign companies and controlled by foreign maritime workers would be granted unprecedented access to operate on our nation’s inland rivers and waterways and to carry domestic cargo between America’s inland, coastal and Great Lakes ports.
The Maritime Institute for Research and Industrial Development (MIRAID) and the Masters, Mates & Pilots (MM&P) strongly support the Jones Act. MIRAID member companies including Horizon Lines and Matson Navigation, and MM&P members belonging to its Offshore and United Inland Membership Groups are directly involved in Jones Act vessel operations.
Simply put, MIRAID and the MM&P agree with every recent President of the United States and countless officials within the Department of Defense who, as stated by General Tony Robertson, Commander in Chief, United States Transportation Command in 1999: “You need to know that my bottom line is: the Jones Act is a proven performer that supports both our nation’s military security and its economic soundness. I can’t put it any simpler than that.”
Significantly, only American maritime workers are subject to the background and security checks imposed by the Department of Homeland Security and implemented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration to help prevent maritime-related security and terrorism incidents on our waterways and in our nation’s ports. Weakening or repealing these requirements in the Jones Act means that foreign companies and foreign maritime workers who are not subject to United States government background and security checks will have unlimited access to America’s ports, port facilities and coastal and inland waterways.
It is shortsighted and ill-advised at best, especially at this dangerous time in our nation’s history, to suggest to our government that we relinquish all control over those who choose to enter our country by vessel and to allow these individuals to gain total control over the timing and the cost of transporting America’s domestic commerce.
It also makes absolutely no sense from an economic standpoint to turn over the construction and operation of domestic vessels to foreign companies and foreign workers. The efforts of Congress and the Administration should continue to be directed toward preserving and creating jobs for American workers, not to outsource American jobs to the benefit of foreign workers. The Jones Act ensures that Maritime Americans will keep working.
The construction and operation of vessels as required by the Jones Act generates approximately 500,000 American jobs for American workers engaged in the construction, maintenance and repair of vessels for the domestic trades, the operation of these vessels under the United States-flag, and in related service and supply industries. Equally important, the domestic shipping industry is responsible for more than $100 billion in annual economic output.
It is shortsighted and ill-advised at best, especially during these difficult economic times, to drive American shipping companies and shipyards out of business, force thousands of American maritime workers into the ranks of the unemployed, and deny the Federal and state governments the corporate and individual tax revenues these companies and their workers generate.
Finally, it is incredibly dangerous for the security of the United States to weaken or repeal the Jones Act. The operation of U.S.-flag vessels in the domestic trades, as required by the Jones Act, helps ensure that our nation will maintain a core capability of maritime skills and a cadre of trained, loyal civilian American merchant mariners needed by the Department of Defense in time of war or other international emergency. As our nation is experiencing today, it is critical that the United States have the sealift capability needed to bring our forces what they need when they need it.
A weakening or repeal of the Jones Act would mean a reduction in the number of American mariners available to operate the commercial vessels needed to support our troops. American troops and their families have the right to know that the equipment, material and supplies needed to protect America’s interests overseas will be carried by American ships with American crews, and not left to the political or ideological whim of foreign companies and foreign crews.We urge each Member of Congress to support the continued implementation and enforcement of the Jones Act: to support American rather than foreign shipping companies and shipyards; to promote American rather than foreign maritime and shipbuilding jobs; to strengthen rather than weaken America’s maritime and port security; and to support America’s troops by ensuring they will continue to be dependent on American mariners – and not on foreign ships and foreign crews.