The Jones Act turns 100

In a few months, that controversial law that most of you are well versed in, the Jones Act, turns 100. So with our soon-to-be-published November issue, we decided to jump the gun a bit so our story doesn’t get lost in next year’s Merchant Marine Act of 1920 centennial madness.

In our cover story next month, Dale DuPont and Max Hardberger tackle this sensitive subject. Dale is up first, offering a straightforward report on where the Act and its proponents stand today.

She begins her report with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s quote about the Jones Act and a possible trade deal at August’s G7 summit.

“Donald, what we want is for our ships to be able to take freight, say, from New York to Boston, which at the moment they can’t do. So, we want cabotage. How about that?” he said to President Trump at this summer’s G7 meeting. Trump’s reply: “Many things — many things we’re talking about.”

Johnson’s suggestion to ditch the Jones Act is just another shot people have taken over the years to try and scrap the nearly 100-year-old law. Proponents defend the act, saying it is vital for national, economic and homeland security.

As Matt Paxton of the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) told Dale, “People who understand the law, understand its value. If you didn’t have the Jones Act, you’d have to invent it — to police our waterways, to police our coastline.”

In the second part of the cover, Max has penned an opinion piece backing up the case for repeal of the law.

He cited the Congressional Research Service (CRS), which said the price of a U.S.-built tanker is an estimated four times the global price of a similar vessel, while a U.S.-built containership may cost five times the global price.

Thus, Max wrote, since the acquisition cost of a vessel has to be passed on ultimately to the consumer, the U.S. public pays the difference.

As for national security, “even if we had the capacity to build the types of large, oceangoing vessels needed in wartime, we can’t afford to build them in the U.S.,” he wrote.

Whatever side you are on, I encourage you to e-mail me ( your thoughts on the 100-year-old Jones Act.

About the author

David Krapf

David Krapf has been editor of WorkBoat, the nation’s leading trade magazine for the inland and coastal waterways industry, since 1999. He is responsible for overseeing the editorial direction of the publication. Krapf has been in the publishing industry since 1987, beginning as a reporter and editor with daily and weekly newspapers in the Houston area. He also was the editor of a transportation industry daily in New Orleans before joining WorkBoat as a contributing editor in 1992. He has been covering the transportation industry since 1989, and has a degree in business administration from the State University of New York at Oswego, and also studied journalism at the University of Houston.


    • Avatar
      George Critch on


      91 countries representing 80% of the world’s coastlines of United Nations maritime states have cabotage laws restricting foreign maritime activity in their domestic coastal trades. UN member states with cabotage include China, South Korea, Russia, Japan, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, and Canada. It makes this seaman cringe when you cite the Hoover Institute. Who is it named after? What was his claim to fame. All of you intellectuals that bellow about laissez faire attitude toward business and free markets don’t understand that life is not about ‘profits’ as much as it about people and how we treat people. What happened to the markets in 2008? Who bailed out the ‘know it all’ banking business. Unfettered capital has no morals or integrity. Controls are necessary or all of us will be characters in Dickensian novel. Many families are, mine included, supported by the Jones Act trade and we like it. I can only hope that the concerned trade groups make the case for maintaining the Jones Act in a far more erudite manner than I can.

  1. Avatar
    George Critch on

    Can’t wait for the debate, so every American Seaman that has raised a family while employed on board an American Flag vessel, can chime in and stomp all over Mr. Hardberger”s opinion and his International Globalist sycophancy!! Hopefully, ALL American Maritime Unions will elevate the debate beyond what a hardscrabble seaman who served his country, such as myself, can offer.

  2. Avatar
    Pete Hosemann on

    Of course it costs more for United States companies and governments to operate.
    We do so at the highest standards in the world. If you’re willing to ship our destiny by the lowest bidder, how low do you think China and Russia will bid?

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