To the Editor:
Re: “Century-old law hurts our modern economy – Antiquated requirement not needed, costs the nation up to ‘$200 million’ annually” (December 2, 2015):
Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s op-ed is filled with factual errors claiming the Jones Act is hurting our economy.
He claims there “are only a few remaining U.S. shipyards,” failing to recognize a renaissance occurring at America’s 124 shipyards. Those yards deliver approximately 1,100 vessels each year, according to The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD). Over the next three years, at least 33 commercial, oceangoing vessels are on order in domestic shipyards. Moreover, those shipyards, and their American workers, are critical to the defense industrial base, which is a key reason the Defense Department supports the Jones Act.
Hegar attempts to blame the Jones Act for older ships, but according to IHS Maritime, the average age of the Jones Act fleet is the same as the world fleet – 21 years. And the age of the Jones Act fleet is decreasing with new vessels coming online and as older ships are retired.
Comptroller Hegar argues that with the Jones Act, “there are no similar limitations on the origin, ownership or crews of aircraft.” Untrue. U.S. airlines have U.S. citizenship, ownership, and crewing requirements.
Even Hegar’s claim that the Jones Act adds up to $0.15/gallon to gasoline prices is off the mark. A recent Transportation Institute study concluded the maximum potential impact of domestic shipping on the U.S. gasoline market is $0.001/gallon.
Most importantly, the article ignores the Jones Act’s benefits. America’s homeland security depends on secure domestic waterways. Our national security is enhanced by requirements that domestic commerce be conducted on American vessels in full compliance with U.S. laws and under the consistent oversight of the U.S. government. Jones Act vessels in the coastal marketplace operate under some of the most stringent Coast Guard and class society rules of any vessels in the world, securing our borders from threats domestic and abroad.
In fact, U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Paul Zukunft, in 2015, said this about the possibility of foreign-flag vessels in the Jones Act trades: “what are the safety standards, what are the maritime pollution . . . standards, how are they in compliance with the same standards that we apply to our U.S. fleet? I think, at the end of the day, it will put our entire U.S. fleet in jeopardy. And then in a time of crisis, who are we going to charter to carry our logistics? Very difficult if we don’t have a U.S.-flagged ship.”
Thankfully, Congress recognizes those benefits, calling the Jones Act vital to “the national security and economic vitality of the United States” in a recent defense bill.
The real story is the facts support that the Jones Act is good for the nation.
Counsel, American Maritime Partnership (AMP)