Providing aid to the survivors of hurricanes and other natural disasters as rapidly as we can should always be our first priority. However, I am concerned about how quickly we grant Jones Act waivers and allow foreign shippers to move supplies without first giving a chance for our U.S. shipping industry to effectively respond.
I feel that some politicians and many media outlets incorrectly discount U.S. shippers in times of national need. Why do they assume that U.S. shippers and mariners cannot get the job done? I think the answer is rooted in misplaced emotion and a lack of understanding of the U.S. shipping industry. They aren’t aware that we have both the ships and mariners available in times of need.
Think about the many different types of U.S. commercial vessels of that carried thousands of our citizens safely from New York City after the 9/11 attacks. And don’t forget the ferries that rescued passengers of the ill-fated U.S. Air flight 1549 on the Hudson River. There are countless other water-based rescues that go unnoticed nationwide each year.
Many don’t understand the Jones Act and its importance to our country and the maritime industry. According to law, the Jones Act can only be waived in the interest of national defense. However, the Bush administration set precedent by waiving the law to respond to fuel shortages caused by several hurricanes. As a result, the nation now quickly seeks Jones Act waivers in response to national disasters. Somehow we now believe that the Jones Act gets in the way of or prevents us from adequately responding to disasters. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. U.S. companies such as Tote, Crowley and many others have the ability and resources to efficiently respond.
Some politicians have referred to the Jones Act as being arcane, outdated, and called for its repeal. Caving in to political pressure to grant Jones Act waivers plays directly into the hands of international shippers and others who would like to expand their businesses. They would undercut U.S. shippers, shipyards and shipyard workers, suppliers and, of course, U.S. mariners. We have the resources, talent, technology and the expertise to respond effectively to any national disaster or need.
Let’s not jump the gun in the future after hurricanes hit and overlook U.S. shipping resources. We can get the job done for our citizens and the nation.