Maritime labor has set the standard in helping to preserve America’s vitally important cabotage laws, without which there would be no U.S. maritime industry.
That is what Thomas Allegretti, the chairman of the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), told the MTD Executive Board during its meeting in Houston on February 14. (Allegretti also heads the American Waterways Operators, the national trade association representing the interests of the inland and coastal tugboat, towboat and barge industry.)
AMP was formed more than 20 years ago with the expressed intention of preserving the Jones Act and other cabotage laws. Its 450-plus members represent all aspects of the U.S.-flag maritime industry.
Allegretti told the board, “Not many of you may know this, but (MTD President) Mike (Sacco) was the leader of the effort to establish AMP two decades ago. I remember very vividly the speech where he told us that if we didn’t get our act together and build a national coalition to come together in defense of the Jones Act, that we were going to lose the Jones Act. He was our wakeup call.”
And what a wakeup call it has been. Thanks to AMP and the organizations which belong to it, the Jones Act has weathered numerous assaults over the past two decades.
“You play an indispensable role in building support for the Jones Act and for our industry on Capitol Hill and with the executive branch,” he said. “In many ways, the work that AMP does takes its cue from maritime labor. You all have really perfected the art of building relationships on Capitol Hill, and it really is an art. Not everybody gets it right. You go tirelessly to the Hill in times of plenty and in times of want – to build relationships, to educate members of Congress and their staffs.
“You do it day in and day out over years that have stretched into decades. You provide members of Congress with accurate, fair information and the results speak for themselves. You guys always play the long game and not everybody does that well. You do.”
Allegretti noted that the Jones Act “provides a vital merchant marine that stays under American control. The result is not just good for us but it’s good for our country.”
Thanks to the efforts of AMP and organized labor, Allegretti said that he “is pleased to report to you that the state of the Jones Act and the domestic maritime industry is stronger than it has been at any time in recent memory. Our industry is undergoing a resurgence that’s fueled by new, exciting developments in the movement of energy cargoes…. We’re witnessing a surge in the construction of American vessels the likes of which we have not seen in many years. This resurgence has its roots in a confidence that the Jones Act is and will remain the law of the land. It is our collective responsibility to ensure its preservation.”
The strong state of the Jones Act also is helping to shore up capital investments in the nation’s domestic shipbuilding. As Allegretti noted, “These are state-of-the-art vessels (being built). There is now a long list of containerships, tankers, ATBs, dredges, tugs, barges and other vessels under construction or on the order books. In a typical year, American shipyards build more than 1,000 vessels, and this new surge has grown even beyond that.
“This is an industry that is investing billions of dollars to ensure its resilience. This investment and this growth simply would not happen without the Jones Act, which gives American companies the confidence to make these multi-billion-dollar investments.”
In short, said Allegretti, “We have a powerful story to tell about how critical the industry is to America’s success. This is an industry that provides real, family-wage jobs that truly epitomize the American dream. In his State of the Union address, the President talked about ladders of career opportunity. You can’t find a better example of a ladder of career opportunity than the one our industry offers young men and women, and the Jones Act is what makes this opportunity possible (because of) jobs that can’t be outsourced.”
Moreover, when it comes to national security, Allegretti said both the Defense Department as a whole and the U.S. Navy in particular “strongly support the domestic maritime industry, and the Jones Act as its statutory foundation, because strong vessel operating companies; a skilled, available supply of mariners; and a robust shipbuilding and ship-repair industrial base are critical force multipliers that the U.S. government must have, but could not sustain without the commercial American domestic maritime industry.”