Suspension of the Jones Act: Was 2017 a Model for the Future?
Hurricane Maria was the most powerful storm to impact Puerto Rico in over 80 years, and Hurricanes Harvey and Irma have caused significant destruction in Texas and Florida. During September 2017, the Trump administration temporarily waived the Jones Act to help victims cope with the devastation wrought by these storms, and some constituents are arguing that it should be repealed altogether.
The Jones Act
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act, is a complicated piece of legislation. It was originally passed with the aim of increasing national security and boosting America’s maritime industry.
While the Jones Act also provides workers’ compensation benefits for injured seamen, the portions of the law dealing with trade have stirred up political controversy. The act mandates that all goods transported by water between United States ports must be carried on vessels built, owned, and operated by Americans. Since there are relatively few such ships in use, shipping companies had difficulty delivering hurricane relief supplies to victims quickly.
Jones Act Controversy
Any foreign registry ship entering Puerto Rico must pay punitive fees, taxes, and tariffs, which are passed on to consumers. Critics of the Jones Act cite a 2012 New York Federal Reserve study, which found that shipping a container on a foreign vessel from the U.S. East Coast to the Dominican Republic costs $1,504. However, the cost of sending the same container to Puerto Rico is a whopping $3,063.
This impact on trade has sparked a debate regarding the value of this provision of the Jones Act, with some people arguing that it should be permanently repealed. Even if this happens, however, it’s highly unlikely that benefits for injured maritime workers will end. Those workers’ compensation benefits would remain on the books.
Jones Act Compensation Today
If you’ve suffered injuries as a maritime worker, you may qualify for benefits under the Jones Act. You need an experienced maritime attorney to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. To learn more, contact the law offices of Steve M. Lee, P.C., by clicking the Live Chat button on this page.