SIU President Michael Sacco Cites More Support for Jones Act
It’s always encouraging to hear about support for our nation’s freight cabotage law, so I was pleased to read several recent comments from maritime and national security leaders who attended a Navy League of the United States event in the nation’s capital.
The gathering is an annual one known as the Sea-Air-Space Exposition. It’s run by one of our industry’s biggest backers, the Navy League, and it brings together key officials and executives from the U.S. defense industrial base, private-sector U.S. companies and the American military.
During a panel on April 11, subject-matter experts got together to discuss the importance of the Jones Act in ensuring sealift capacity, supporting a strong defense industrial base, and for maintaining homeland and economic security. Participants included Anthony Fisher, Deputy Associate Administrator for Commercial Sealift of the Maritime Administration; Michael Herbert, Chief of the Customs and Border Protection Jones Act Division of Enforcement; Rear Admiral John P. Nadeau, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy for the United States Coast Guard; and Matt Woodruff, Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), a major coalition representing the domestic maritime industry. (You may have previously read Jones Act-related comments from Herbert and Fisher, respectively, in our coverage of Maritime Trades Department meetings.)
Fisher asserted that the Jones Act was the essential component to ensuring that crucial supplies including food, water and medicine were quickly delivered to the Puerto Rico as soon as ports reopened after Hurricane Maria. As he put it, “The Jones Act did not hamper the response. The Jones Act made the response possible.”
Herbert used a term that should hit home when it comes to securing the homeland: “We use the Jones Act as a virtual wall,” he said. “Without the Jones Act in place, our inland waterways would be inundated with foreign-flagged vessels.”
Rear Adm. Nadeau, answering a question about the consequences of a hypothetical repeal of the law, said, “The Coast Guard is responsible for the safety and stability of the marine transportation system, and [if you repeal the Jones Act] you just made our jobs a whole lot harder.”
Recognizing the stringent requirements met by U.S. Merchant Mariners, Woodruff noted, “Our mariners are U.S. Citizens and are credentialed by the U.S. Coast Guard. They undergo extensive background checks. Our mariners are the neighborhood watch of the waterways of America.”
Those weren’t the only insightful comments from the Navy League event. During a different panel discussion earlier the same week, Rear Adm. (USN, Ret.) Mark Buzby, currently serving as Maritime Administrator, said, “Take away the Jones Act, you have taken away the majority of jobs for our U.S. mariners in peacetime, that we need in wartime. Getting rid of the Jones Act does not think through all of the ramifications it has on our war fighting ability – and to sustain the Navy and to sustain the Marine Corps. That is why our flag says in peace and war.”
And on still another panel – one covering shipbuilding – Matt Paxton, President of the Shipbuilders Council of America, explained that the Jones Act’s U.S.-build requirement ultimately helps ensure that our troops can depend on reliable deliveries of materiel so they can achieve their missions.
Some of you may wonder why we are involved in coalitions. Take another look at the list of people I just quoted. None of them are from a union, but they all understand the importance of the Jones Act and the work you do.
I’m sure you’ve noticed, but efforts to maintain support for the Jones Act do not end. Similarly, as we report elsewhere in this edition, no sooner had the SIU and many other pro-maritime allies helped secure full funding for the U.S. Maritime Security Program than we shifted our focus toward getting proper monies for it for the next fiscal year. It’s the same thing with cargo preference – our work is constant, because that’s what it takes to keep these laws and programs in place, and thereby maintain SIU members’ jobs.
Election Day isn’t all that far off, and as we get closer to November, it’s important to continue supporting candidates who back our industry. America’s national, economic and homeland security depend on the U.S. Merchant Marine and American-flag shipping.