The Navy League of the United States has released a new report titled, “China’s Use of Maritime for Global Power Demands a Strong Commitment to American Maritime,” which outlines and reinforces the importance of the maritime industry and in particular the Jones Act.
As stated in the introduction of the report, “America has been guided by the waterborne trades and the laws of maritime commerce since its founding. Shipbuilding and the generations of mariners in the shipping trades are pillars of our maritime and naval heritage. In that spirit, Americans have always gone to great lengths to protect the nation’s ports and sea lanes. Early on, American merchants abided by Navigation Acts fashioned by the English government to protect British Colonial interests. Today, American maritime law and the commercial maritime trades are informed by a set of laws, including the Jones Act.”
The report detailed the current state of the U.S.-flag fleet, saying, “U.S. maritime stakeholders are well aware of the challenges America faces in shipbuilding and in global shipping. The U.S. has seen a sharp decline in its international maritime fleet, whereby less than 200 U.S.-flagged vessels are represented in an oceangoing cargo fleet of more than 41,000 ships. The U.S. trails 16 countries in shipbuilding by a disparate proportion. In 2019, China ranked highest with 1,291 oceangoing ships under construction, while Japan and South Korea were the next largest shipbuilders but with each having roughly half of that number of vessels in production. The U.S. was building only eight oceangoing vessels in 2019.
“In a comprehensive 2020 study by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, ‘Strengthening the U.S. Defense Maritime Industrial Base: A Plan to Improve Maritime Industry’s Contribution to National Security,’ the Jones Act is described as guarding ‘against the ability of China … to take over shipping to U.S. territories and to gain local influence during peacetime, only to threaten or deny shipping to CONUS [contiguous United States] during a crisis or conflict’,” the report continued. “China’s goals, beyond creating jobs and expanding its economy, are aimed at dominating the shipping industry and world trade. Through its state-owned enterprises, China has, in the past two decades, managed to dominate the world’s core maritime industries, namely shipbuilding, majority ownership of oceangoing commercial ships and ownership or part ownership of marine terminals at key ports on strategically important trade lanes. China can shape global trade to its liking in times of peace and, in times of conflict, leverage an overwhelming advantage in global maritime logistics built up primarily at the expense of U.S. importers.”
The American Maritime Partnership, to which the SIU is affiliated, issued the following statement concerning the report: “This study by the Navy League raises important questions about China’s ambition to dominate the global maritime supply chain. It requires a thoughtful policy response from the United States, including a renewed commitment to a robust American maritime industry, which is critical to our national security.”
Additionally, the Shipbuilders Council of America issued the following statement: “The U.S. Navy League’s latest report on China’s strategy to advance global maritime dominance confirms what American shipbuilders have witnessed for decades which is Beijing funneling hundreds of billions into its shipbuilding programs to manipulate world markets and strengthen the country’s power on land and sea. While China will not rest in this pursuit, it is even more critical that we continue to build and repair the U.S. commercial and military fleets to bolster the American economy and protect domestic and national security.” The Navy League of the United States is a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating citizens about the importance of sea power to U.S. national security and to supporting the men and women of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, and U.S.-flag Merchant Marine and their families.