As the United States maritime community celebrated the centennial of the nation’s freight cabotage law, numerous legislators issued supportive statements.
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan) was among those elected officials who praised the Jones Act in early June. He posted a news release that read in part, “June 5, 2020 marks the 100th Anniversary of the enactment of the U.S. Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Commonly referred to as the Jones Act, the Act has served over the last century as the foundation of the Great Lakes and domestic shipping industry. This vital maritime law ensures that cargo moving between domestic ports is carried aboard vessels that are American-built, American-owned, and American-flagged, which in turn strengthens and supports U.S. homeland security while driving economic benefits to local communities. Each and every day, 365 days a year, the Jones Act functions to protect our nation’s 95,000 miles of coastline and inland waterways, limiting inland access to foreign vessels and crews while mariners serve as the eyes and ears to strengthen border and homeland security.”
The senator continued, “America’s dependence on the Great Lakes and the seas is integral to our economic health and our sovereignty. Nowhere is this more evident than in my own state of Michigan. According to The American Maritime Partnership, Michigan’s Great Lakes domestic maritime industry contributes $2.8 billion annually to our state economy, including 12,140 jobs and $703.6 million in worker income. With 37 deep-draft ports, Michigan has more than the seven other Great Lakes States combined.
“Over the last 100 years, the men and women of the U.S. maritime workforce have also unfailingly answered the call to duty, providing vital services to support the nation in times of crisis,” Peters added. “Their service was never clearer than during the activation of civilian merchant mariners amidst the Second World War. These men and women moved critical supplies to overseas troops and allies, while enduring the highest rate of casualties of any service. More recently our domestic maritime workforce has responded swiftly to a range of crises facing the nation, including facilitating the largest boatlift in world history following 9/11, and the current and ongoing delivery of essential medical supplies and goods to communities in need during the COVID- 19 pandemic.”
The senator concluded, “On this week’s centennial anniversary of the Jones Act, I thank the men and women of the U.S. maritime industry for their service, and I vow to continue to work here in the Senate to uphold the integrity of the Act’s protections for our Michigan and Great Lakes workforce.” A 2019 study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Transportation Institute showed the Jones Act is responsible for 650,000 American jobs creating more than $40 billion annually in income. Workers whose jobs are related to the law can be found in all 50 states. Cabotage law is not unique to the United States. The London-based Seafarers’ Rights International released a study in 2018 listing more than 90 countries that have some type of cabotage law on their books.
Editor’s note: See the July issue of the Seafarers LOG and the SIU website (www.seafarers. org) for additional coverage of the Jones Act’s centennial, including statements from other members of Congress.