Politics & Policy

Why We Need the Jones Act

Container ships off Los Angeles harbor, December 2, 2012
Repealing the historic law would make us less economically and militarily secure.

The March 1, 2013, article, “Sink the Jones Act,” written by individuals from the Conservative Future Project, fails to acknowledge the critical role that the law plays in supporting a strong domestic maritime industry.

While the article suggests that the Jones Act harms our national security, exactly the opposite is true. That’s why the U.S. Navy is among the strongest supporters of the Act. Since its enactment, every president, congress, and defense department has backed the Jones Act. The law has enjoyed this kind of bipartisan support due to the important national- (as well as economic- and homeland-) security benefit it provides to our nation.

By supporting a strong commercial base of seafarers, vessels, and shipyards, the Jones Act enables the flow of domestic waterborne commerce and serves as a naval and military auxiliary in times of war or national emergency. During Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, U.S.-flagged commercial vessels transported 90 percent of all military cargos moved to Afghanistan and Iraq. In its study “The Contribution of the Jones Act to U.S. Security,” the Lexington Institute concludes: “Ninety years after it became law, the Jones Act continues to be vital to national security needs.”

Every job created in an American shipyard spawns four jobs elsewhere in the U.S. economy. The Jones Act fleet annually generates 500,000 jobs, contributes $100 billion in total economic output, and provides $29 billion in wages, according to a study by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Transportation Institute.

The idea that this law hinders competition is also false. U.S. carriers compete fiercely among themselves and with other modes, and rates are highly competitive. Shipping is by far the most economical mode of transportation.

You don’t need to be an expert in the maritime industry to know that repeal or modification of the key domestic maritime laws would make America less secure economically and militarily.

— James Henry is the chairman of the American Maritime Partnership.

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