Two members of Congress deemed the Jones Act “a commercial and public policy success” in an opinion piece carried by the Washington Times on March 26.
U.S. Reps. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and Steve Scalise (R-LA) jointly penned the column to point out the benefits of the U.S.-flag maritime industry from shipbuilding to sailing.
“Those searching for signs of hope in the U.S. economy need look no further than an industry too often taken for granted – the American maritime industry,” wrote the pair. “In the midst of a renaissance that is creating jobs and leading an American economic recovery, the men and women who work on U.S. vessels and in U.S. shipyards collectively contribute billions to our national economy.”
Noting how shipyards in their home states are bustling with work, the congressmen added, “American companies and workers are applying American ingenuity – and investing billions of dollars – to meet the nation’s transportation needs. Whether through new vessel construction, innovative technology or rigorous safety training, at a time when other industries are suffering from uncertainty, the domestic maritime industry is investing in its future and safeguarding its resilience.
“All Americans will reap the benefits.”
Hunter and Scalise pointed out that none of this would “be possible without the Merchant Marine Act passed by Congress in 1920, commonly referred to as the Jones Act, which requires that vessels moving cargo between U.S. ports be owned by American companies, crewed by American mariners and built in American shipyards.”
The two stated the Jones Act serves the nation’s bottom line through nearly 500,000 jobs and almost $100 billion for the economy as well as its security. “Without the Jones Act, vessels and crews from foreign nations could move freely on U.S. waters, creating a more porous border, increasing possible security threats and introducing vessels and mariners who do not adhere to U.S. standards into the bloodstream of our nation.”
In addition to his work on the column, Hunter – as chair of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation – questioned budget cuts aimed at the industry during a hearing held the same day.
He was critical of proposed Obama administration cuts to the PL-480 (Food for Peace) Program, saying it would “eliminate a vital program for our farmers, put U.S. mariners out of work and undermine our national security by reducing the domestic sealift capacity on which our military depends.”
He also questioned the administration’s suggested outlay for the Title XI Shipbuilding Loan Guarantee Program, which provides low-cost loans for the construction of commercial vessels in domestic shipyards.