The article by John Brinkley titled Century-Protectionist Law Is Sweet Deal for U.S. Shipping Industry But Not For Anyone Else (Nov. 4, 2015) includes so many basic factual errors that it is hard to know where to begin. So let’s begin at the beginning. The first two paragraphs of the story are flatly factually wrong.
In the first paragraph, Brinkley says that because of the Jones Act, cargo from South Korea on a containership from that country would have to be offloaded in Seattle and transferred to another ship for delivery to Honolulu. Of course, that is not true. The South Korean ship could deliver some of its cargo in Seattle and then other of its cargo in Honolulu. The movement described by Brinkley is unaffected by the Jones Act, which would only apply if the hypothetical ship was trying to pick up new cargo in Seattle and move it to Honolulu.
The same error occurs in the next paragraph. Because of the Jones Act, Brinkley says, a French container ship could not deliver some cargo in New York and continue to deliver more in Philadelphia. Again, he is wrong. The Jones Act does not prevent any such move for the reasons explained above.
When the first two paragraphs of a story are factually wrong, it does not bode well for the rest of the story. Brinkley blames the Jones Act for the recent sinking of the American container ship El Faro even though it is unknown what caused the ship to sink in the category 4 Hurricane Joaquin. Brinkley says changes to the Jones Act soon may be coming in the current legislation related to crude oil exports — changes to the Jones Act “may be allowed,” he predicts –even though the House-passed and Senate committee-passed bills contain no such provision and no one watching it with any care would predict any changes to the Jones Act. He pokes at the Seafarers International Union for saying that the cost of crude oil is the main driver of the price of gasoline at the pump, a truism so basic that no one would dispute it. He describes the American shipping industry as “mostly unionized” — again a statement that is completely factually wrong as the vast majority of the domestic ship industry is not. He describes pressure on the Jones Act as coming from the “U.S. oil industry,” again an unsubstantiated statement that is flatly wrong. I could go on and on.
The Jones Act may be a fair topic for debate, but this article is so factually wrong that it detracts rather than adds to any reasonable debate. It is surprising to see such at article in a media outlet as respected as Forbes.
Mark Ruge, AMP Counsel