Every day American workers face threats to the security of their jobs. The U.S. merchant marine knows this all too well. Today, less than 2 percent of imports and exports are carried on U.S.-flagged ships, while over 98 percent of cargoes travel on foreign-flagged vessels that do not employ U.S. citizens or pay taxes to the United States.
Unfortunately, the U.S. maritime industry has recently been forced to defend the Jones Act, an important law requiring that the movement of cargo between U.S. ports take place on U.S. owned, U.S.-built and U.S.-crewed vessels flying the Stars and Stripes.
This law and these jobs are especially important to the U.S. The Jones Act ensures that we maintain the ability to build ships while promoting the thousands of jobs associated with shipbuilding. It also guarantees that the U.S. Coast Guard properly trains and vets all mariners operating vessels along our coasts and throughout our inland river system. The Jones Act ensures that our country maintains a base of highly skilled merchant mariners who are prepared to sail aboard vessels that carry military cargo overseas. It is the same merchant marine that has supported our nation’s military operations and conflicts throughout the world for over 200 years, even when foreign-flag ships and crews have refused to enter the war zone.
Detractors recently called for the General Accountability Office (GAO) to conduct a study on the Jones Act and its effect upon Puerto Rico, stating that the law was the cause of higher consumer rates and was not properly meeting the needs of the local shippers and population.
Though the GAO didn’t find it feasible to measure certain aspects of the overall cost of Jones Act shipping, the study showed that the U.S. domestic container shipping fleet has provided regular and reliable service while offering significant rate reductions. The study also found that modifying the Jones Act for Puerto Rico could result in grave consequences to the U.S. merchant marine, American shipbuilding and national security and perhaps even the disappearance of U.S.-flag vessels from the Puerto Rican trade. This would create a negative impact on the U.S. merchant marine and the shipyard industrial base that the Jones Act protects. We don’t need more U.S. jobs slipping through our fingers.
The Jones Act defends American maritime jobs, national security and our economy. The livelihoods of thousands of American citizens depend on the Jones Act, as does our nation’s security. It’s time to support pro-job policies and stop attacking the U.S. merchant marine.
Michael Jewell, president
Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association