A 2014 study by accounting giant Price Waterhouse Coopers stated that in Louisiana there are approximately 55,840 maritime jobs that contribute over $11.3 billion annually to the economy. Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana noted that “Maritime is one of the largest industries in Louisiana, behind oil and gas and agriculture. But we wouldn’t be standing here today to tout this economic prowess of the maritime industry in Louisiana if it weren’t for the Jones Act. The Jones Act is a jobs act – pure and simple. I will continue to do all that I can to ensure the Jones Act is properly enforced and Louisiana maritime jobs are protected.”
Echoing Senator Landrieu’s words was Representative Steve Scalise, who praised the Jones Act as a help on the national level: “The American maritime industry is leading an economic recovery and investing in America’s waterways infrastructure. Waterborne commerce and our nation’s maritime base are vital to America’s economy, security and quality of life. I’m proud to stand in support of the Jones Act, which is critical to our national security and a public policy success story.”
In pronounced contrast and as mentioned in a previous post, commentators and Members of Congress excoriate the Jones Act as an archaic law that needs to be changed and hurts the economy. In particular, they point to the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico where, they claim, progress is slow due to Jones Act-related issues.
This article will focus on those who believe that the Jones Act is vital.
The Jones Act, enacted in 1920, provides, among other things, that a vessel carrying cargo from one port in the United States to another port in the United States must be American owned, American flagged, and American built. At the time of its enactment, the purpose was to trigger a buildup of American maritime fleets and infrastructure. It would compel Americans to create a shipbuilding industry and compel Americans to act as sailors and invest in the maritime business. It would also create a fleet of ships that would be useful in the event of a war.
Some argue that because of these requirements, maritime shipping within the United States becomes more expensive. They point to the Puerto Rico, which is subject to the Jones Act, as bringing in goods that are necessarily more expensive due to the Jones Act restrictions. Recently, the Department of Homeland Security suspended the Jones Act for 10 days to help those in Puerto Rico obtain goods at a fair price.
On the other hand, the argument is, as mentioned, a jobs act that disallows foreign interference with American jobs. By allowing foreign vessels to conduct business in the United States, people would lose their jobs or be forced to accept serious paycuts. As mentioned, the Jones Act allows for the reinvestment of tax dollars paid on American built and maintained ships to go toward waterway infrastructure. In addition, Americans operating cargo ships allow for Americans, not foreigners, to control the industry. This keeps those will potentially distructive ideas away from America’s waterways.
In short, the argument is that the Jones Act is vital for economic, structural, and security reasons.
Jones Act issue? Contact the Kolodny law firm, experienced maritime attorneys.
(image courtesy of Matt Mariannelli)