During her confirmation hearing Jan. 11 before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, Elaine L. Chao voiced strong support for the U.S. Merchant Marine and the Jones Act.
A longtime backer of the American maritime industry, Secretary Chao – the Transportation Secretary designee – stated during the hearing, “The Jones Act is a very important program that secures national security. We have seen two wars now in the last 25 years…. If we did not have the merchant marine assets to assist the gray hulls (U.S. Navy ships) on these campaigns, our country would not have been able to supply our troops, bring the necessary equipment. All of that is not done on the gray bottoms, but rather the merchant marine bottoms.”
She added, “The national security of the merchant marine fleet is part of the way that we are able to be effective overseas and protect this country. So, I am a great proponent of the U.S.-flag Merchant Marine fleet.”
Earlier in the hearing, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Mississippi) described Jones Act as “a vitally important part of our maritime industry.”
Addressing Secretary Chao, Wicker stated, “I hope you will be a strong supporter of the Jones Act and advocate for our domestic maritime sector as a bipartisan majority of this committee has always done.”
Also at the hearing, Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) said the Jones Act is “the foundation of the domestic U.S.-flag maritime industry and it is also essential to our national security.” He noted the steadfast support of the nation’s freight cabotage law from “every Secretary of Defense, every Secretary of the Navy for generations.”
The Jones Act helps sustain an estimated 500,000 American jobs, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers. It requires that cargo moving between domestic ports be carried on vessels that are crewed, built, flagged and owned American.