Jones Act salt debate was about money 

The Mail Bag pro and con letters on the Jones Act in the April 2014 issue was interesting. 

One of the things that made the debate interesting is that New Jersey Transportation Commissioner Simpson trolled a red herring in front of the media and everyone went for the bait. The complaint made by the commissioner basically was that there was a pile of salt in Maine that New Jersey was desperate for but it could not be moved on a foreign-flag ship at a fraction of the cost of a U.S.-flag ship that may or may not have been available.

If you look at the arguments for seeking a Jones Act waiver a bit more closely, what is really at issue is not that the salt could not be moved by water expeditiously. It was really that the cost of doing so on a U.S. vessel would have been too high. In other words, the real issue was money, not public safety.

What the commissioner also failed to state was that more than enough salt existed in neighboring states that could have been delivered by land at any time. There is a salt deposit several thousand feet thick that extends from western New York through northwest Pennsylvania and into Ohio. Those salt deposits have been mined for over a century and the salt producers in that area have been selling salt for road use in Pennsylvania, Maryland, New York and New Jersey for over 50 years.

The issue with that salt is that it is far more expensive than salt imported from places like Chile. Thus, the real problem wasn’t whether there was salt sitting on a pier in Maine that couldn’t be moved in foreign-flag ships, it was that the salt that was nearby and readily available cost more than New Jersey was willing to pay. 

Thus, the failure of the bureaucrats to foresee the possibility of a salt shortage and do the intelligent thing (line up a secondary line of suppliers in the event of a real shortage) was transformed into an attack by politicians seeking to avoid blame and presented to an uninformed public by an uninformed media who didn’t know the right questions to ask.

Charles S. Cumming 

Halesite, N.Y. 


Reader relates to columnist’s problems 

In his column on virtual navigation aids in the August issue of WorkBoat, Capt. Alan Bernstein was right on the money. 

It is bad enough that people can’t use their current navigation equipment or maintain a proper watch, never mind own a chart. Now the Coast Guard wants them to navigate with electronics which most people don’t have or don’t know how to use. It’s just another thing to take their attention away from the conditions.  

I work for one of the major recreational towboat services in New Jersey. I have been entertained by many of Capt. Bernstein’s articles about the problems he faces. 

I used to think that the people were that bad only in New Jersey. But Capt. Bernstein faces the same problems we have here with paddle boarders and kayaks. I have had these people block an inlet when I was pulling in a vessel with four-foot seas at my back and blowing my horn for them to give way. In another instance, when in a tow, a kayak cut across my bow when I was towing through a narrow bridge span. Another problem we face are kayakers that fish at night with no lights in the channels and confined areas.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy reading your articles and realizing it is not just me.

Capt. Bob Silva 

Toms River, N.J.