How Restrictive Is The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Jones Act)

I'm in the middle on this one. While the Jones Act undeniably drives up the cost of transportation for goods between US ports, it's purpose is mainly for defense reasons. We need the capability to build and operate our own ships in times of war, without the Jones Act we would have no merchant marine at all. Hard to fight a war when you cannot move men or materials.

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5 hours ago, Refman said:

I'm in the middle on this one. While the Jones Act undeniably drives up the cost of transportation for goods between US ports, it's purpose is mainly for defense reasons. We need the capability to build and operate our own ships in times of war, without the Jones Act we would have no merchant marine at all. Hard to fight a war when you cannot move men or materials.

No chance.  The yards that could build the big stuff are all working for the military.  The smaller yards only build tugboats and PSV ships. What the Jones Act does is ensure that there will be no American domestic shipping. 

You can go out and set up a trucking company and run it with Volvo trucks.  You can start an airline and fill it with Airbus machines.  You can start a railroad and buy your locomotives and cars from France.  But if you want to run a ferry company you  have to buy an American-built ferry?  How does that compute?

At one time the Danes started a ferry service that ran from New York down to Florida, with drops at Cape Canaveral and Ft. Lauderdale.  So they have these seriously capable deep-water ferries that run the Baltic, the North Sea, the Bay of Biscay, out to Iceland, and in the Med.  They bring over a Danish ferry and it cannot run directly to Florida (thanks to your Jones Act) so instead they ran to the Bahamas, where all the passengers had to drive their cars off the ferry, sit in the cars, and then re-load onto two smaller ferries, one to Cape Canaveral and one to Ft. Lauderdale. All that extra cost has to be paid for by the passengers, and it is a huge hassle. Why?  If the Danes did not provide that service, nobody else was going to. You don't see some American stepping up and doing that with a US ship hull; it would be insanely expensive and nobody would pay the fare. The Danes eventually folded the run and pulled back their three ships (it took three to do the work of one).  Now there is NO service for anybody, and if you want to go to Florida, you can drive the 1400 miles.  Just lovely.

The Jones Act is a good example of bureaucracy run amok.  I predict it will be here for another century; old ideas die hard.

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(edited)

In the particular thread this was spun off from, it was started from me stating that nat gas prices (and I'm thinking in peak cold season) would be lower in New England if we could actually get our lng shipped domestically. However, no US shipyard produces lng carriers nor are there any Jones act compliant vessels in service.

If the Jones act gets left in place, it needs to be amended to allow foreign built vessels where Jones act compliant versions do not exist to fill the role. This is also an issue with the offshore wind industry in the US- fortunately Jones act compliant jack-up rigs are already produced for the offshore oil industry and it only takes a few changes to repurpose one for the wind industry.

Then there's island states/territories that just simply get boned by the Jones act. I don't think I have to go into too much detail on this one because Puerto Rico has brought this issue into the spotlight again. 

Edited by Jouhou
Fixed wording
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I think it's an antiquated regulation.  I understand what it's purpose WAS, but I don't think it's been terribly successful.

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