Bloomberg off base on Jones Act

It didn’t take long for the first editorial calling for the abolishment of the Jones Act to appear in 2013. On New Year’s Day, an opinion piece on Bloomberg View, “How a Disaster Called the Jones Act Blocks Disaster Relief: View,” said that the Jones Act has outlived its usefulness.

The editorial points out that President Obama had to temporarily suspend the maritime law in order for foreign ships to help carry needed supplies to Hurricane Sandy ravaged areas. “Within days of the president’s actions, gasoline prices declined and filling station lines, which had required police patrols to keep the peace, soon disappeared,” the editorial said.

Fine. That’s why the president has the ability to do that when a natural disaster occurs. Looks to me like the system worked.

Yet that’s not good enough, according to Bloomberg.

The editorial goes on to say, “U.S. islands such as Puerto Rico and Hawaii, along with the state of Alaska, feel the effects of the Jones Act more than most localities.”

Well, scrap the Jones Act and see what happens to the oil and gas industry in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico — a move that would affect every state in the U.S. Only the strongest of second-tier shipyards would be able to survive when offshore service vessel companies build their boats in Asia and elsewhere and then send them to work in the U.S. Gulf. In addition, U.S.-based OSV companies would hire cheaper foreign workers or U.S. crews willing to work for far less than they are receiving now in order to compete with foreign companies.

The last thing the U.S. needs is thousands of shipyard workers and boat crews either unemployed or underemployed. This is another way to move U.S. jobs overseas.

So. you don’t believe it will happen? Ask yourself how many container ships and big tankers are built in the U.S. Stripping away the Jones Act will change that scenario for the better? No way.

The Jones Act is not perfect. But letting everyone into the pool is not the answer. A better system requires compromise — something this country is in short supply of at the moment.    

About the author

Ken Hocke

Ken Hocke has been the senior editor of WorkBoat since 1999. He was the associate editor of WorkBoat from 1997 to 1999. Prior to that, he was the editor of the Daily Shipping Guide, a transportation daily in New Orleans. He has written for other publications including The Times-Picayune. He graduated from Louisiana State University with an arts and sciences degree, with a concentration in English, in 1978.

1 Comment

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    Ken makes some good points. The Jones Act is not the problem it is the Government who needs to support the US Maritime and build more new modern ship and man them with US Crews.

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