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Steven M. Lee, PC

Political Opposition Threatens the Jones Act

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Let’s face it: the Jones Act means very little to most of America. A majority of citizens probably don’t even know the law exists.

In states like Texas, however, where a large portion of the population relies directly on offshore and maritime industries for work, the Jones Act is an important statute that protects the Texas men and women who work at sea.

Work as a seaman has always been notoriously dangerous, and maritime workers—officially those who spend over 30 percent of their time at work on a vessel—face some of the most difficult work environments of any industry.

Despite the perils that seamen face, however, there are some who criticize the 1920 Act due to its port-to-port shipping provisions, which require that all ships transporting cargo between two United States ports must be built in the United States, manned by crews made up of United States citizens and owned primarily by Americans.

Opposition to the Jones Act

Senator John McCain (R/Arizona) has been particularly vocal about these provisions, stating that the restrictions drive up the cost of goods by eliminating foreign competitors. He believes that opening up domestic routes to foreign-built ships would benefit the average American by lowering the cost commodities such as:

  • Oil
  • Gasoline
  • Steel

In January 2016, McCain initiated his third attempt at combating certain build requirements as a proposed amendment to Senate Bill 2012, the North American Energy Security and Infrastructure Act of 2016. That legislation has not been enacted into law.

How the Inclusion of Foreign Ships in Domestic Routes Could Affect You

Currently, no foreign-built ships are able to engage in domestic shipping within the United States, a rule that several other countries follow. McCain’s argument that U.S. ships are four times more expensive to build and three times more expensive to operate than foreign ships leads many to believe that if the option became available, many shipping customers would choose the less-expensive foreign ship to do business.

In the short term, that could mean job loss for our local shipbuilders as foreign ships with American crews move in on domestic routes. In the long term, a weakened Jones Act may be more vulnerable to further changes—which could mean cuts to worker protections in order to remain competitive in the worldwide market.

If you would like more information on your rights under the Jones Act, contact the firm today at 713-921-4171.

Category: Maritime and Offshore Cases

Steven M. Lee
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Houston Attorney at Law

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