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Jones Act, Get Your Act Together – YOUblog Featured Article

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April 5, 2009

At the risk of incurring the wrath of gCaptain and the marine industry in general, and exposing my own naivety at the same time, here is a scenario for consideration:

A US shipping company has a fleet of Jones Act vessels and trading routes between US ports. The ships are aging, (maybe even steam driven), and becoming uneconomical to run. They may be more polluting and un-environmentally friendly than todays newer vessels, just like in the auto industry. Profits could be poor or even negative and government funding might be the only way of staying afloat.

Is this the right way to continue? Is there an alternative solution that can help US shipping become the strong and worthy industry that it used to be?

It seems to me that running the US Merchant Marine as the Country’s 4th or 5th [military] service means that it will never be a viable commercial business, in which case the answer would be to completely nationalize the industry. Take full control, cancel all the lucrative contracts etc. (run as an NPO?), and put all the money into building up the fleet with new tonnage. I guess that could make the Merchant Marine almost like the USPS for example.

Alternatively…find the key to the Jones Act locker and consider a sweeping change or two that might make a difference. And before I go down this road, let me question the reasoning behind the idea.

For many years now I have made a habit of inspecting every label to see where an item is made, as I desperately seek to support my home industry…and to anyone who has the same ideas, you know how hard this can be. For example, my recent choice of reciprocating saw (yes I live dangerously!), was made purely on where the product was made, and I am very happy to report that “Made in Wisconsin” works just fine! Next up, a new pair of pliers with a price of $30 vs $10 for the import, but I will have a US made pair in my tool box.

For a US shipping company, I would recommend a [simple?] change to the act that would allow them to purchase foreign built tonnage for domestic trade. Those vessels would still have to be flagged in the US and crewed by US seafarers, just as they are today.

This would allow a company to quickly invest in new, perhaps more economical, tonnage. They may even be able to increase their fleet size (two for the price of one?), and thus employ more US seafarers and add to the US flag economy. The same new vessels could easily be used for international trade and switched between both as market demands dictate.

It is very unlikely that this idea would sit well with domestic ship builders and particularly at a time when they are launching whole new series of fine modern vessels. This recent success though must be due in most part to the Jones Act and government funding programs? One can sympathize with these yards and their fine workforce of skilled shipbuilders, but why are they any different to my chosen plier manufacturer? Is it “all about me?”

I do not believe that our shipyards can not compete on the international playing field. The vessels being built now, albeit with some outside assistance, prove this. If the determination and commitment is there, they can succeed. No, I say let the shipowner go out and rebuild his fleet. Let him become strong and wealthy and then tempt him home…where he belongs.

This article was written by YOUblogger Publius Nauta. You can find the original article, including comments from gCaptain forum members, HERE. To view more articles written by our members or to submit your article for consideration visit YOUblog today.

Do you want to know more about the Jones Act or were injured while working offshore?  Gordon & Elias, L.L.P are a boutique law firm with a nationwide practice focusing on Jones Act, Admiralty and Maritime Law.  More information can be found at, and the associated Jones Act Blog

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