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MarEx Readers Weigh In on Last Week's OPED Piece on Jones Act Issues

Last week, we took on the issue of the Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) and Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines federal lawsuit to prevent a recently converted Matson Navigation ship from sailing between California and Hawaii or in other domestic trades. The suit targets the U.S. Coast Guard and its National Vessel Documentation Center. Interestingly, the article garnered almost 25 percent of all article traffic last week, yet drew just two responses. Here’s what MarEx readers had to say about it and the issues.

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Joe: Happy New Year! In regards to the cadets on the foreign ships…good; sea time is sea time. However, once licensed and they continue to sail on foreign hulls for foreign companies has anyone considered:

  • Will there sea time count towards a USCG license upgrade (no discharges, etc.)?
  • What about health care?
  • What about pensions?

I doubt that the opening of the foreign flag vessels to US sailors will affect the manning of the US owned fleet due to the wage and benefit differential. One would also have to wonder that if we can’t get Americans to sail on US ships due to the high work load and non-competitive wages/benefits vs. shoreside jobs, how many are going to want to sail foreign? It’s not like we’re turning away people looking for work. In regards to the Jones Act; I agree (reluctantly) that any breach of the Jones Act will lead to the eventual elimination of the US Jones Act Fleet and eventually the US Merchant Marine. There will be foreign manned and built vessels plying the coastal waters of the US. The next step would be for the foreign hulls to make inroads in the brown water fleets. My fear is based on the large number of special interest groups with completely different and very often competing agendas and I truly believe that to get a bigger piece of the pie they would indeed throw the baby out with the bath water. The US Agricultural Conglomerates would like nothing better to get rid of the requirement for any grain to be carried on a US hull. The people working with US Government sponsored or funded projects would also like to eliminate the higher costs of using US hulls. The size and capital of the enemies of the Jones Act would come pouring through any breach in the Act like Lake Pontchartrain poured through the 17th Street Canal levee. Best regards, Rich Boyer MarEx Remarks: Mr. Boyer brings up some solid points. Read on for more.

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Dear Mr. Keefe, Thanks for the article. One point not really addressed in the article is perhaps the most important. It is not just the desire of cabotage laws to keep US shipyards in operation, but more importantly to insure that there are US Flag vessels available to supply our troops in time of war. While the opportunity for peacetime work for American sailors may be seemingly wonderful, the unseemly side of a departure from strict adherence to cabotage will only reveal itself in the dark hours of war. Brian McEwing Port Captain Cape May - Lewes Ferry MarEx Remarks: Mr. McEwing emphasizes the sealift aspect of Jones Act tonnage in times of war. It does seem to me, however, that it is the smaller shipyards that appear to be most concerned about the use of foreign materials and repairs conducted overseas. Fair enough. The smaller yards depend far more on the repair business than perhaps the bigger yards that can satisfy the government’s requirement for larger hulls. Hence, the source of the lawsuit is not necessarily surprising.

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Read the SCA/PASHA case by clicking HERE. Read last week’s OPED piece by clicking HERE. Joseph Keefe is the Managing Editor of The Maritime Executive. He can be reached with comments on this and any other article at jkeefe@maritime-executive.com.