A protectionist law is actually hindering trade within the United States, according to a new report by Heritage Foundation experts Brian Slattery, Bryan Riley and Nicolas Loris.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, more commonly referred to as the Jones Act, requires that any goods shipped by water between two points in the U.S. must be transported aboard a U.S.-built and U.S.-flagged ship with a crew composed at least 75% by Americans:

The Jones Act undermines U.S. economic competitiveness in a number of ways. For example, U.S.-built, U.S.-owned, and U.S.-crewed vessels have dramatically higher operating costs than other options available to shippers. U.S.-flagged container ships and tankers spend over four times as much as foreign vessels on crewing expenditures. Jones Act ships also have higher maintenance costs, and it is more costly to repair and maintain vessels in domestic shipyards compared to foreign ones. Repair and routine work on U.S. tankers costs almost 70 percent more than comparable work on foreign tankers. Foreign vessels have longer trade routes and can spread their costs over a larger amount of cargo, making operating costs cheaper. As indicated by a March 2013 Government Accountability Office (GAO) study, foreign vessels that operate in a global marketplace have the flexibility to adjust their capacity to meet changing markets.

Do you think the Jones Act should be repealed? 

Comments (14)

Bryant Hopkins - May 23, 2014

The Jones act should not be repealed. If it were, foreign governments and companies would destroy most of the American floating trade, and its onshore facilities. Cheaper does not mean the-same-for-less-money! Foreign shipping and shipbuilding companies are largely owned by their governments, and their subsidies would be used to buy out American business. The Jones act is an international protection act, not a domestic subsidy act.

C. H. Weston - May 23, 2014

It is wonderful how “progressive” our leaders!!!
UNLESS it helps us economically … of course it should be repealed, along with some of those leaders.

Ralph Heilig - May 23, 2014

Re repeal of the Jones Act. Your argument for repeal, on its face, seems justified. But you fail to tell the other side of the story. One of the main reasons for the higher costs for shipping via American vessels is due to unions. Granted, the union has raised the standard of living for many of us but it has also driven industry to export more and more production to foreign countries. I think there are two sides to this story and you have addressed only one of them.

David Roncinske - May 23, 2014

Free Trade, wherever it has replaced “protectionist” policies, has resulted in the loss of middle and working class jobs. When these domestic jobs are lost to “free trade” policies, those left in the working and middle class are then forced to provide entitlement benefits to those displaced workers, such as food stamps, wick, insurance benefits, etc. Although it would be easier to acquire lower priced goods if the Jones Act were repealed, the costs associated with supporting displaced American workers would exceed any savings. The measure of positive trade is trade that which provides a net benefit to the majority of Americans not just to a select few.

Tom V - May 23, 2014

Don’t forget what the Jones act does to the cruise ship industry. It is possible, on an Alaska Cruise, to fly to Vancouver, go through Canadian Customs and Immigration, bus (a few) miles to the port, board your ship and be back in the US. Then, it’s back to Vancouver, through Canadian C &I then back to the airport and eventual US C&I. There are no US Port to ports permitted. You must touch a foreign port.

Damon Hilsmeier - May 23, 2014

BIG LABOR, is killing buisness in the US. Keep sales at home. the JONES ACT must GO!

john grisham - May 23, 2014

No question! The Jones Act is not in the interest of American shippers because it limits competition in the significant water-borne transportation sector.

Robert Wroble - May 23, 2014

NO- the Jones Act should ” NOT ” be repealed Just more American lost due to the ” greed ” of major corporations & their fat cat CEO’s
For the record I am a devout conservative – but enough
already.

Carol Morrisey - May 23, 2014

Why would we want to exchange American jobs for supporting foreign shipping? I am willing to pay a little more for goods in order to support American jobs. I wish we could reduce the number of imports too, so that I could actually find something to buy that’s made in the USA. I looked everywhere for a camera made here–no such thing. Dismal!

John Porter - May 23, 2014

You have no made the case. You imply that if Maryland could buy US salt shipped by a foreign ship they would in fact do that. But you don’t show any back up data. Suppose that US salt shipped to Maryland was still more expensive than South American salt shipped by the same shipper? Where is the data?
Do we want to reward other countries who spend less on building quality into their ships and recruiting and training their crews? Should we throw more business to those whose ship ran aground off the coast of Europe and killed U.S. passengers? Should we reward those whose freighters collide with other frieghters in the middle of the ocean or whose cruise ship floundered off the coast of Mexico for days while the passengers wallowed in sewage because there was no power and no backup plan?

Don - May 23, 2014

Sound like the Jones Act should be expanded to include foreign imports as well. Should help our ship building industry and employment of americans on those ships.

david - May 24, 2014

And there is something wrong with such a law in a country that in public sectors it seems more people speak a “foreign” language than those who speak american English.
And that it is all but a requirement that an american speak Spanish equal to English. I hear more “English” spoke in the Philippines than I do within the confines of the borders of America.

JG - May 25, 2014

Of course this protectionist law should be changed. American seamen have been controlled by a powerful union for quite a long time. Foreign competition will provide more jobs and shipping in American waters.

Elizabeth Froggett - May 27, 2014

DO NOT REPEAL THE JONES ACT! We have to keep as much work in the USA. as possible. You can think of a much better way to solve the problem. American Vessels should have the work. Quit the way things are done to giving other countries that benefit them financially I”m sure if you got your excelant brains together and your Get your thinking caps on you will find a way for our country to get the GOOD deals. DON’T do things to wipe out our MERCHANT MARINE. THINK POSITIVE BUILD UP OUR MERCHANT MARINE. We need them. We could not have won WW11 with out them. WE should be building them especially the condition the world is right now. O’Bamma is tearing us apart. YOU CAN DO IT. You will be proud of your success.

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