More Jones Act Support
It seems fitting to close out 2020 with a word about the Jones Act, which marked its centennial this past summer. As you’ll see elsewhere in this edition, America’s freight cabotage law is still making headlines – most recently in the form of support from members of Congress and from the Navy League of the United States.
While I never take anything for granted, I’m confident that the Jones Act will continue enjoying strong bipartisan support in the new year (and beyond). This law has never been more important to U.S. national, economic and homeland security. It protects our shipbuilding capability, safeguards our coasts and waterways, and helps maintain a pool of well-trained, reliable, U.S.-citizen mariners who will be available to sail on military support ships in times of need.
The Jones Act has endured because it is extremely sound policy. Nevertheless, we’re always on the lookout for attacks against it, and we also invest time and energy educating new legislators about the law’s significant value. We’ll continue on that path.
While it’s sometimes overlooked in maritime discussions, cargo preference is another crucial component of our industry’s foundation. Cargo preference is an economic boon for our country that doesn’t cost the taxpayers a dime.
In brief, cargo preference programs require shippers to use U.S.- flag vessels to move specified government-impelled, ocean-borne goods. The most often cited program is PL-480, otherwise known as Food for Peace. Enacted in 1954, Food for Peace ships American-grown food, dry goods and other commodities aboard U.S.-crewed, U.S.-flag ships to countries with dire nutritional needs. Those packages, marked “USAID from the American people,” help nourish those at risk of starvation while spreading a message of goodwill to the most impoverished countries on Earth.
That is not the only such law, though. The Cargo Preference Act of 1904 dictates that 100 percent of military cargo be shipped aboard U.S.-flag vessels; and Public Resolution 17 from 1934 states all cargo generated by the U.S. Export-Import Bank must be carried aboard U.S.-flag ships unless granted a waiver by the U.S. Maritime Administration.
As we turn the calendar to 2021, the SIU will continue to advocate for the expansion of the nation’s current cargo preference laws, and to ensure that American mariners keep working aboard U.S.- flag ships around the world.
While we all are still dealing with the global pandemic, I’m hopeful that everyone throughout the SIU will be able to count our blessings during the winter holidays.
One thing I’m very grateful for is the incredible professionalism of Seafarers in 2020. You have truly risen to the occasion and fulfilled your mission as essential workers. You have demonstrated flexibility, dedication and sacrifice in order to help keep commerce flowing and to support our armed forces. You certainly answered the call during the turbo activations this summer, and I’m proud of you.
This dedication extends to our affiliated school in Piney Point, Maryland, which reopened in early August. Everyone at the Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education has met the moment and done what needs to be done in order to safely, successfully run classes for upgraders and apprentices. It’s not easy but it’s vital, and everyone at the school – staff and students alike – deserves credit for getting the job done.
Keep the faith, brothers and sisters. Better days are ahead.