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The Contribution of the Jones Act to U.S. Security
by David Gouré
The United States has always had a special relationship to water. It is a nation founded from the sea. Its interior was explored and linked to the sea via mighty rivers and waterways that penetrate deep into the continent’s interior. Seaborne commerce drove the American economy for two centuries; even today that economy is dependent on the sea to carry virtually all the $3.5 trillion in international trade generated annually. Millions of Americans have made their livings from the seas and national waterways. The security of the seas, part of the global commons, has been a central theme of this country’s military strategy since the days of the Barbary pirates.
From Athens and Rome to Great Britain and the United States, the great seafaring nations have built strong maritime industries, merchant marines and navies. These three components of seapower are interrelated. A maritime industry is vital to the ability to build ships, including naval vessels. The merchant marine is what carries goods to and from this country in both peace and war. A strong Navy secures the oceans for U.S. seaborne trade and access but is dependent on the industrial base to produce new vessels and repair existing ones.
The importance of a national maritime industry and merchant marine was recognized in law as far back as 1920 when Congress passed Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act, also known as the “Jones Act.” Only vessels conforming to the provisions of the Jones Act are permitted to carry passengers or cargo between two U.S. ports, a process also termed “cabotage.” All officers and 75 percent of the crews of vessels engaged in cabotage must be U.S. citizens, with the remainder being citizens or lawfully admitted aliens. These vessels must be built in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and flagged or operated under the laws of the United States. Read MoreDownload: Contribution_of_the_Jones_Act.pdf
Puerto Rico receives Jones Act shipping service that is cheaper, more regular, and more reliable than
foreign shipping rates to the USVI, and consumer prices in Puerto Rico are far lower than in the USVI. Download: COST OF JONES ACT SHIPPING IN PUERTO RICO_USVI.pdf
The Jones Act And Homeland Security In The 21st Century
For nearly a century, the Jones Act has protected the U.S. shipbuilding industrial base and ensured the continuation of an American merchant marine. Since September 11, it has also become an important instrument for the protection of the U.S. homeland from the threat of foreign terrorism. The Jones Act requires that all ships engaged in cabotage, movement between two U.S. ports, at sea or via inland waterways, be U.S. flagged and that the crews be no less than 70 percent U.S. citizens. This limits the ability of terrorists to use U.S. waterways to attack the homeland, improves the collection of intelligence and reduces the burden on the domestic security forces. Were there no Jones Act, one would have to be created. Read More.