SIU President Michael Sacco highlights Congressional support for the Jones Act, plus recent recognition for SIU crews who were honored for safe operations
Seafarers know that one of the foundations of our industry is a law called the Jones Act, which helps sustain half-a-million American jobs while pumping billions of dollars into our economy. But despite the fact that the Jones Act has helped protect U.S. national and economic security for more than 90 years, the law sometimes comes under attack by groups or individuals who are misguided at best.
That’s why it’s so important when key legislators from both political parties like Congressmen Buck McKeon (R-Calif.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) speak out on behalf of this crucial law, which specifies that cargo moving between U.S. ports must be carried on ships that are crewed, built, flagged and owned American. The congressmen recently wrote to the Secretaries of Defense, Transportation, Homeland Security and Energy to “urge the Administration to take all steps necessary to ensure that Jones Act vessels are used in the future and that the transportation of goods, including petroleum products, is incompliance with our nation’s cabotage laws.” They further stated that it is “critical that the Administration ensure that U.S. vessels and U.S. seafarers are fully utilized before granting any Jones Act waivers.”
The letter was written in response to uncalled-for waivers granted last year to foreign vessels that transported oil from the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve. Congressman McKeon chairs the House Armed Services Committee while Congressman Smith is the committee’s ranking member. They concluded, “The Jones Act supports our industrial base and maintains a national maritime infrastructure that helps to ensure there will be ample U.S. sealift capacity to defend our nation…. We recognize the importance of the Jones Act and its invaluable contribution to our nation’s security, which is why we are concerned about any efforts to weaken the law.”
No one could have said it better. Members of Congress may not agree on much these days, but they do know the Jones Act is good for America. That’s why it has enjoyed bipartisan support for so many years.
Safety Awards and Another Rescue
Several SIU-contracted companies recently received safety awards from the U.S. Coast Guard, and almost at the same time as those announcements, the Seafarers-crewed Horizon Reliance was back in the news for its second rescue in the last four months. All of the recognition is well-deserved, and it reflects the overwhelmingly safe operations conducted daily by our members aboard vessels on the deep seas, Great Lakes and inland waterways.
For us, a key ingredient to shipboard safety is the training available at our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland. Some of our older members and retirees know firsthand that when the school opened in 1967, our training was, by today’s standards, basic, though it met the requirements of that day. But it quickly evolved and has done nothing but improve over the years. Today, it’s a state-of-the-art facility that prepares Seafarers for the routines of shipboard life as well as the unpredictable things that happen at sea.
The school is also another example of the partnership that we enjoy with our contracted operators. Many of those companies put substantial backing into the school, because they understand that when a trainee or an upgrader graduates from a safety course at the Paul Hall Center, that mariner is a real asset. And of course, the school is an invaluable resource for Seafarers, who can use it to keep upgrading and advancing their careers.
Our school in Piney Point has done a great job not just keeping up with the industry’s needs, but also planning ahead for future concerns. That’s no easy task, but the school’s success also is no accident, and it’s a big reason why I’d stack our SIU crews up against any others across the globe when it comes to safe, reliable performance.