Congressman Hunter Defends Jones Act


June 2017


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One of the American maritime industry’s most consistently outspoken advocates recently issued a characteristically strong defense of the Jones Act.


U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) posted and circulated the op-ed in late April, under the headline: Protecting our southern border with U.S. mariners.


Hunter serves on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and chairs the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. Among other assignments, he also serves on the House Armed Services Committee and its Subcommittee on Seapower and Projection Forces.


The congressman’s article sets a pro-maritime tone in the opening paragraphs, which read in part, “I am proud to be an unwavering defender of the Jones Act — a critical U.S. national security law that requires vessels moving from one U.S. port to another must be U.S.-built and U.S.-crewed. The Jones Act, in fact, is the quintessential definition of ‘Buy American, Hire American.’ It’s also a point that President Trump, along with his national security and economic teams, would be well-served to recognize in the effort to revive American industry and capability.”


Hunter then pointed out that America’s freight cabotage law – in effect for nearly a century – “ensures that vessels and workers engaged in coastwise trade are U.S.-compliant while providing domestic shipbuilding and mariner capacity to support our armed forces at times of war.”


Referring to a speech earlier this year by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer Michael Herbert at a Maritime Trades Department meeting, Hunter underscored Hebert’s identification of “the inherent difficulties in trying to police and protect the more than 95,000 miles of coastline in the United States. In his remarks, Officer Herbert spoke about the importance of the Jones Act and its critical role in protecting the homeland first and foremost. In the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, this law also applies to vessels servicing the offshore platforms that deliver our nation’s energy supplies – exactly the type of critical infrastructure that CBP and others are committed to protecting.


“Because of this, the Jones Act has been supported by every modern president and has explicit support from our nation’s Coast Guard, Marine Corps and Navy leadership,” Hunter continued. “To further emphasize this crucial maritime capacity, CBP recently established the Jones Act Division of Enforcement (JADE) in New Orleans to support the office in ensuring vessel compliance.”


The Jones Act has been in the news because of a CBP ruling designed to help properly enforce the law as it applies to offshore ser v ice ves - sels. Previously, Hunter wrote, “foreign companies and crews [took] advantage of a loophole and circumvent[ed] the build and staffing requirements of the Jones Act. Naturally, foreign entities are now upset that their loophole has been closed and are making unfounded claims to pressure on the CBP to drop the revocation.


“The fact of the matter is that if the revocation proceeds, as it should, there will be 3,200 U.S. jobs generated in the Gulf of Mexico alone with absolutely no disruption of offshore energy exploration and production,” Hunter asserted. “The added benefit of these jobs means that an estimated additional 1,000 mariners will be qualified to help the U.S. Ready Reserve Fleet, which is activated in times of war to move military cargo to war zones.”


He concluded, “The choice comes down to supporting U.S. mariners and shipyard workers, keeping U.S. critical energy infrastructure safe with no disruption to our offshore energy exploration and production and in compliance with U.S. law, or allowing foreign interests to prevail in undermining all of the above. CBP’s intent to uphold the extraordinary importance of the Jones Act should be commended…. It’s in America’s interests to recognize the significance of the Jones Act in strengthening U.S. maritime and national security.”


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