By definition, the movement of cargo between two points in the United States is governed by Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (46 U.S.C. § 55102). The law is generally referred to as the Jones Act in honor of its author, Senator Wesley Jones (R-WA). The Jones Act is the continuation of laws that encourage U.S.-flag fleet and allied industries that dates back to our nation’s founding.
The other major cabotage laws and statutes include:
- Jones Act – 46 U.S.C. § 55102
- Passenger Vessel Services Act – 46 U.S.C. § 55103
- Salvage – 46 U.S.C. § 80104
- Towing – 46 U.S.C. § 55111
- Dredging – 46 U.S.C. § 55109
The U.S. Merchant Marine is a vital part of the domestic maritime industry and is recognized as “The Fourth Arm of National Defense.”
Indeed, a strong domestic fleet ensures the United States will always have:
- World-class vessels to meet sealift needs;
- Expert and experienced seafarers to man the U.S. government’s organic surge sealift ships in times of national emergency;
- A modern shipyard industrial base that is critical to the nation’s economic, national, and homeland security; and
- Intermodal transportation systems available for defense use through the Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement (VISA).
During Operations “Enduring Freedom” and “Iraqi Freedom” (2002-10), U.S.-flag commercial vessels, including ships drawn from the domestic trades, transported 63% of all military cargos moved to Afghanistan and Iraq. Equally important, the domestic fleet also provided half of the mariners needed to crew U.S. government-owned sealift vessels activated from reserve status. Those vessels carried an additional 35% of the total cargos delivered to the war zone.
The U.S. Navy’s position is clear—repeal of the Jones Act would “hamper [America’s] ability to meet strategic sealift requirements and maintain and modernize our naval forces.”
- Of the domestic maritime industry’s vessels, 70% are available for use in supporting the U.S. military. Despite the utility of large airplanes, 95% of the equipment our military needs is best moved by water;
- The domestic oceangoing fleet represents 36% of all U.S.-flag commercial containerships, 35% of all U.S.-flag roll on/roll off ships, and 90% of all U.S.-flag product tankers;
- Vessels for domestic waterborne commerce represent 35% of all U.S. commercial shipbuilding this helps maintain the skills and shipyard capacity needed to build and repair military vessels
- Nine out of 10 American professional mariners work in the domestic trades.
Our American commercial armada is as diverse as the nation it serves with more than 40,000 vessels engaged in domestic waterborne commerce. AMP members have invested well over $30 billion into their fleets and contribute more than$100 billion to the nation’s domestic economy annually.
Enhanced Safety and Security are two of primary benefits that result from America’s long-standing policies on domestic waterborne commerce.
- U.S.-flag vessels are built and operated to the world’s highest safety standards.
- No other nation sets a higher standard for mariner credentials.
AMP member organizations that move cargo between U.S. ports receive no direct subsidies from the government. Compared to foreign companies that receive direct subsidies from their respective governments, U.S. companies in the domestic trades succeed on their merits in the marketplace where competition is fierce. Equal application of U.S. cabotage laws ensures a level playing field, while encouraging both competition and new innovations.