I was recently invited to participate in a conference where the pros and cons of the Jones Act was discussed. At first, I didn’t feel I was qualified to speak on the topic, but I changed my mind after doing some research and talking to some Jones Act experts.
As I reviewed the long history of the Jones Act, I recalled the many attacks on the law over the years by those seeking to change it.
I was also surprised to learn that 81% of the world’s shipping ports have some type of Jones Act equivalent (also known as cabotage laws) to protect against foreign intrusion in a country’s domestic industries. So, we are not alone in trying to protect commerce.
The Jones Act is still relevant and important to the U.S. maritime industry and its workers. Why would we want to open the gates to foreign countries to undercut everything we have worked for? Further, we need to manufacture and produce everything we need here in the U.S. I find it disturbing that many of the items we need today are imported from outside the U.S., such as fuel, pharmaceuticals, many manufacturing parts, steel, and even agricultural products.
The Jones Act has a place and a purpose and needs to remain intact.
The Jones Act also protects U.S. shipyards and its workers because the law requires vessels that work in the U.S. coastwise trade to be built in the U.S. The law also ensures our ability to build and man ships in time of war, a critical element in World War II. Can you imagine, without the Jones Act, relying on China or Russia to build or repair our fleet of vessels? National security is an important part of the discussion about the importance of the Jones Act.
As a business owner, I have occasionally considered hiring foreign workers to work on our vessels — to bus tables, serve food, and provide galley support — to help address the severe employee shortages. But we all must follow the law and in the long run things will work out.
Our industry needs to do everything we can to train and promote U.S. workers. We must start early in students’ lives and stress that there are good jobs in the maritime industry that can provide them with long and fruitful careers.
For the aforementioned reasons I support the Jones Act and encourage everyone in our industry to do the same.