Administration Reiterates Support for Jones Act


November 2015


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During a recent conference in New York, U.S. Maritime Administrator Chip Jaenichen reaffirmed the overwhelming support for the Jones Act in Congress and the Obama Administration.


In his address at the event in early October, Jaenichen pointed out that for almost a century, presidents from both parties have supported the Jones Act including Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.


“We have four presidents from both political parties over a three-decade span backing and reinforcing their support of the Jones Act. I ask you, what other kind of issues would trigger that level of political census?” said Jaenichen.


He added that the nation’s freight cabotage law is subject to many “tall tales, embellishments and outright falsehoods or misrepresentations,” such as Puerto Rico’s attempt to blame the Jones Act for its financial woes.


“The unvarnished truth is that Puerto Rico has built a mutually beneficial relationship with Jones Act carriers,” he said. “The Jones Act [provides] just one quarter of maritime service to the island (based on both tonnage and the number of annual vessel calls) and is in no way, shape or form responsible for Puerto Rico’s economic difficulties.”


He concluded that while these falsehoods “may weaken the popularity of the Jones Act, it will never diminish our federal government’s overall support for the Act.”


Echoing support for the law was Tom Allegretti, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership (AMP). He stated that the strong backing of the Jones Act trade is due to the industry’s longstanding positive impact on national, economic and homeland security. He said any attempt to include an amendment of the Jones Act in pending legislation is a “vote subtractor” that can hurt Congressional progress.


“Some in Puerto Rico have suggested that a Jones Act exemption be included in the legislative package under the erroneous theory that the Jones Act is bad for Puerto Rico,” Allegretti stated. “But here’s the kicker: If Congress did that – include an anti-Jones Act amendment in the package – the chances of the overall package getting enacted into law would diminish. That’s because the presence of an anti-Jones Act amendment would reduce or subtract the number of Members of Congress who would vote for the overall bill. So Puerto Ricans would be undermining – and maybe even sabotaging – their own assistance package by including an anti-Jones Act amendment in it.”


The Jones Act requires that cargo moving between domestic ports be carried on ships that are crewed, owned, built and flagged American. It helps maintain nearly 500,000 American jobs and pumps billions of dollars into the economy each year.



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