The Jones Act is critical to the military strategy of the United States, which relies on the use of U.S. flag ships and crews and the availability of a shipyard industrial base to support national defense needs.
The domestic American maritime industry strengthens U.S. national security at zero cost to the federal government. The domestic maritime fleet provides capacity and manpower that the armed forces can draw upon to support U.S. military operations. American ships, crews to man them, ship construction and repair yards, intermodal equipment, terminals, cargo tracking systems, and other infrastructure are available to the U.S. military at a moment’s notice in times of war, national emergency, or even in peacetime.
The Jones Act ensures a strong and vibrant maritime industry, which helps ensure the United States maintains its expertise in shipbuilding and waterborne transportation. The U.S. Navy’s position is clear—repeal of the Jones Act would “hamper [America’s] ability to meet strategic sealift requirements and Navy shipbuilding.” Without American maritime, the U.S. would be dependent on foreign owned and flagged vessels for the transport of waterborne commerce in and around the country.
The Jones Act is also critical to our country’s economic security. The 40,000 Jones Act vessels operating in the domestic trades support nearly 500,000 American jobs and almost $100 billion in annual economic impact. An impressive five indirect jobs are created for every one direct maritime job, which results in more than $28 billion in labor compensation. The industry moves close to 888 million tons of cargo every year, which plays an important role in relieving congestion on the nation’s crowded roads and railways.
The nation’s domestic shipbuilders, which are a key part of America’s maritime industry, delivered more than 1,200 vessels in 2012, which represented more than $20 billion in domestic investments. In 2013, U.S. shipyards entered into contracts for hundreds of new vessels, including the construction of state of the art oil tankers and first in the world LNG powered container ships. U.S. shipyards are also leading the way in innovation with the construction of offshore oil and gas support and dynamic positioning vessels.
Moreover, the Jones Act ensures that the vessels navigating our coastal and inland waterways abide by U.S. laws and operate under the oversight of the U.S. government. As was noted by the Lexington Institute in a 2011 report:
“Were the Jones Act not in existence, DHS would be confronted by the difficult and very costly task of monitoring, regulating, and overseeing all foreign-controlled, foreign-crewed vessels in internal U.S. waters.”