Forum Speakers Say America Must Maintain the Jones Act


November 2014


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Speakers at a recent Jones Act forum were united in their belief that America must protect the nation’s freight cabotage law.


Echoing that theme Oct. 8 in New York City were U.S. Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen; Crowley Senior Vice President and General Manager Rob Grune; TOTE, Inc. President and CEO Anthony Chiarello; and American Maritime Partnership (AMP) Chairman Tom Allegretti.


Transportation industry media entity TradeWinds sponsored the gathering, which took place at the New York Yacht Club.


The Jones Act is a crucial component of America’s national and economic security – and a law that typically has enjoyed strong bipartisan backing since its origin in 1920. It requires that cargo moving between domestic ports be carried on vessels crewed, built, flagged and owned American.


Jaenichen focused on the U.S.-build requirement when he mentioned, “This administration has invested more than $150 million to increase the competitiveness and efficiency of U.S. shipyards through MARAD’s Small Shipyard Grant program. We know that increased production at our shipyards means good, middle-class jobs for Americans who not only build, but also operate these vessels. U.S. shipyards are experiencing the greatest volume of shipbuilding activity in more than three decades. Today, there are over 30 large, self-propelled, ocean-going Jones Act eligible tankers, articulated tug-barge units and container ships either under construction or on order at U.S. shipyards.”


He further explained how the Jones Act creates jobs in a blog post originally written for the Department of Transportation, MARAD’s parent agency. “The Jones Act requires that any cargoes being shipped by water between U.S. ports be transported on a vessel owned by a U.S. company, crewed by U.S. mariners, and manufactured in a U.S. shipyard,” he wrote. “That U.S. shipbuilding requirement has stimulated investment in the privately owned U.S. companies that run shipyards and operate the vessels that employ the best-trained crews and merchant mariners in the world. So much so, employment opportunities for mariners to crew our U.S.- flagged fleet on are vast.”


Grune has said of the Jones Act, “I believe that [it] is critical in ensuring that the U.S. maintains its energy independence. Without a strong domestic industry, our country would be completely dependent on foreign- flag ships, and that’s not a risk that I think we should be willing to take when it comes to our vital resources.”


Allegretti also pointed out the current surge in Jones Act shipbuilding.


“The domestic maritime industry, with the Jones Act as its statutory foundation, is investing heavily to meet the transportation demands of a booming energy economy,” he stated. “We are witnessing a new era of domestic vessel construction that is adding nearly 16 million barrels of inland and oceangoing tank vessel capacity. The Jones Act provides the certainty American companies need to commit the capital that makes this construction, and the jobs that go with it, a reality.”


He then responded to critics’ comments on the relationship between the use of Jones Act ships and gasoline prices. “The average cost of a gallon of gasoline at the pump attributable to use of a Jones Act vessel is one cent or less per gallon,” Allegretti pointed out. “That makes it all the more perplexing why some would propose changes that undermine America’s national, homeland and economic security for such minor savings.”


Illustrating that Jones Act ships are striving to stay on the cutting edge of technology, Chiarello brought good news to the podium: TOTE is converting two SIU-crewed ships, the Midnight Sun and the North Star, to LNG power.


“It wasn’t a cost decision,” he said. “It was a decision based on the impact to the environment.”

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