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A few weeks before finishing his time at the helm of the U.S. Coast Guard, Adm. Paul Zukunft reiterated his support for America’s freight cabotage law.
During a question-and-answer period following a speech he gave in Washington, D.C., the admiral responded, “There’s this fixation that we need to get after the Jones Act. The consequences of the Jones Act [repeal] could have severe repercussions as well.”
The Jones Act requires that cargo moving between domestic ports be carried on vessels that are crewed, built, owned and flagged American. The law enjoys strong bipartisan support and military backing, but also regularly comes under attack by foreign-flag interests.
Zukunft spoke May 8 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Continuing with his answer, he warned that if the Jones Act is weakened or eliminated, “All of our coastwise trade will probably be done by a third nation, namely China, [and] not just coastwise trade, but plying our inland river systems as well. If we’re looking at, ‘hey, if we can lower the cost of doing business, we can have a third nation do it on our behalf.’
“The next thing that goes away is the (U.S. and state) maritime academies,” he continued. “You don’t need them because we have foreign mariners. We don’t know who they are, but they’re foreign mariners plying our waters and our internal waters as well to conduct maritime commerce, which is a $4.6 trillion enterprise in the United States.”
He concluded, “Then the next thing that goes is our shipyards – our shipyards and the technology that goes with the shipyards.… This is not the time and place to go after the Jones Act.”
That wasn’t the first time Zukunft spoke in favor of the Jones Act. During a House hearing in 2016, he said, “You take Jones Act away the first thing to go is these shipyards and then the mariners. If you take the mariners away, what is the world going to look like 10 years from now? If we don’t have a U.S. fleet or U.S. shipyard to constitute that fleet how do we prevail? I am concerned that any repeal of the Jones Act would cut at the heart of that industrial base.
“We inspect foreign ships that we trade with and on any given day we detain two or three ships because they are not in compliance even though the flag state claims they are in compliance,” he said. “The U.S. does have a higher standard for safety and security and no one does it better than the United States.”
During that hearing, conducted by the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Zukunft also said that if the Jones Act were eliminated, “Quite honestly, it will bankrupt our maritime resiliency. When we look at the challenges that the Maritime Administrator and TRANSCOM are facing in the event of a contingency and we don’t have a lift within the U.S. fleet to respond to a contingency at a point in time that we are seeing the reemergence of pure competitors – it is in our nation’s best interest to protect our maritime resiliency and the Jones Act does provide that wherewithal.”
Adm. Karl L. Schultz became the new Coast Guard commandant during a changeof- command ceremony June 1 in Washington.