U.S. Navy Backs Jones Act

Cites Importance of American Mariners, U.S. Shipbuilding

October 2010

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Two recent statements by the U.S. Navy left no doubt concerning its stance on a vital maritime law called the Jones Act.


In early September, the Maritime Cabotage Task Force (MCTF) highlighted a Navy statement that was issued in response to anti-Jones Act legislation introduced earlier this year.


“For decades, U.S. Merchant Mariners have provided essential support for the U.S. Navy during times of war and national crisis,” the statement reads. “Repealing the Jones Act would remove that support at a time when we are fighting two wars and facing a continuing threat from international terrorism.”


That statement came within days of comments from Daniel B. Branch, Jr., president of the Navy League of the United States, noting the importance of a “strong commercial maritime industry” to a “maritime nation [like] the United States.”


“As a maritime nation, the United States depends not only on a strong Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, it also requires a strong commercial maritime industry,” Branch said. “The Jones Act must be maintained so that the more than 8,000 U.S. citizen mariners can continue to provide the economic and military support that is critical to our national interests.”


The Jones Act mandates that cargo moving between U.S. ports must be carried on vessels that are flagged, built, crewed and owned American. Highly credible studies show that the law generates approximately 500,000 American jobs, provides $29 billion in wages and contributes $11 billion in taxes, among other significant economic benefits.


The MCTF, to which the SIU is affiliated, was founded in 1995 to promote the U.S.-flag fleet engaged in domestic waterborne commerce. With more than 400 members, it is the largest coalition ever assembled to represent the domestic segment of the U.S. Merchant Marine.


Enacted in 1920, the Jones Act has been broadly supported by every Congress and administration since its passage and is considered a key element in the nation’s defense capabilities. The law – and the current administration – recently were targets of drastically inaccurate criticism by some media outlets and elected representatives who falsely claimed that the Jones Act was impeding cleanup operations after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.


The facts are that the Jones Act doesn’t apply where the spill occurred (50 miles from the U.S.), and foreign-flag assistance was utilized (along with American-flag tonnage) essentially from the start. Moreover, the administration quickly set up expedited Jones Act-waiver processes in case waivers were needed for related operations closer to shore.


After the recent Navy statements, the MCTF pointed out that “thousands of American mariners have played a critical role cleaning up oil in the Gulf of Mexico. Jones Act vessels involved in the cleanup have included scores of the world’s largest and best-equipped oil spill response vessels, dozens of technologically advanced offshore supply vessels, as well as thousands of fishing boats and other vessels of opportunity.”


The task force further observed, “Navy support for the Jones Act in nothing new. In previous Congresses, the Navy opposed Jones Act repeal legislation, noting that such legislation ‘adversely impacts’ the military need for a strong cadre of American ships, citizen mariners, and ‘maritime industrial base of shipyard and repair facilities.’”


“The U.S. Navy and the Navy League both understand that maintaining longstanding U.S. maritime law boosts our economy and helps protect our homeland,” said Mark Ruge, counsel to the MCTF. “In a time of economic uncertainty and threats to our nation, the Jones Act provides a U.S. Merchant Marine that promotes efficient trade and supports U.S. military and humanitarian efforts throughout the world.”


The Navy League is a non-profit civilian organization with more than 50,000 members worldwide whose mission for more than 100 years has been to educate the American people and their leaders about the enduring importance of sea power to a maritime nation, and to support the men and women of the U.S. sea services.

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