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US Customs’ JADE Enforcer Tells MTD Board Jones Act Needed for Nation’s Security



Making a point on how his office works is US Customs’ Jones Act Division of Enforcement Officer Michael Hebert.
Making a point on how his office works is US Customs’ Jones Act Division of Enforcement Officer Michael Hebert.

The face of the newly created U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Jones Act Division of Enforcement (JADE) told the MTD Executive Board he views the law as a commonsense way to keep the country safe.

“We all know the purpose of the coastwise laws is to ensure the protection of our maritime interests and our shipbuilding interests in the United States,” stated Officer Michael Hebert. “My father-in-law spent his entire career in the shipbuilding industry, so I have a little more appreciation than most in Customs with the maritime industry and with our shipbuilding industry. It is critical.”

Speaking in San Antonio on March 9, Hebert continued, “Without the Jones Act, we would have issues in our inland river systems with national security. Our national security is a layered approach…. There’s no way that we could enforce our national security laws without the Jones Act.”

He then described the magnitude of trying to protect the nation without the Jones Act.

“We have 95,000 miles of coastline in the United States,” he said. “When we look at the southern border, that’s 1,900 (miles), and we’re really concerned about the southern border. But we (also) need to be concerned about our coastline and our river systems. Without the Jones Act, we would be inundated with foreign-flag vessels and non-coastwise-qualified vessels doing business at our critical infrastructures. They would have unfettered access to our refineries and more, and that’s an issue to me. Along with the vessels, the foreign crew that are on these vessels….”

Hebert illustrated the security risks as substantial and said it would be extremely difficult to safeguard such a vast area without tens of thousands of additional security personnel.

Next, he talked about some of JADE’s activities. Upon the department’s formation last year (it’s a national unit based in New Orleans), his division identified a lack of uniform Jones Act enforcement across the country. It is working to mitigate that condition, Hebert said.

JADE assists ports and works with the Coast Guard and Customs, he added. It monitors allegations of Jones Act violations that are reported and weigh in on individual cases. There are many more inquiries now that people know where to turn to ask questions and submit complaints about possible violations, he noted.

The division also works to facilitate “legitimate trade.”

“Our missions are education and enforcement. If we have more education, we’ll have less enforcement,” Hebert concluded.

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