Mailbag: Guido Perla Responds to "Jones Act Dead at 91"

By MarEx 2012-11-21 10:58:00

Guida Perla's response to Tony Munoz's "Jones Act Dead at 91":

Dear Tony,

Good satire about the Jones act.  I am writing this because being a person that has tried to make a living in the United States marine industry for the last forty years, I have something to say about the subject. 

As you know, I have a design company with offices in several other countries and have operated that company for 31 years. I see a lot of discussions about the effect of the Jones Act on the operators and mariner's jobs, but no one in the companies talk about the effects of their actions on companies like ours. We are not protected by that act and we are also an essential and primordial part of our industry.

Twelve years ago I made the decision to go abroad with my business, because it was very difficult here to sell my services at a reasonable price to the so-called "American" companies. Engineering and design costs are one of the smallest cost in building and operating a vessel and I get displaced by foreign companies that do not have to pay taxes, salaries, rent, health insurance and employ persons in this country, by offering their services at a reduced price. We are displaced by foreign companies, because of the desire of these so called "American" companies to accept, allow and promote these "cheap" foreign companies in order to save a buck. 

We, as designers, do not have the Jones Act or U.S. Government taxation to foreign design companies to protect us.   In Brazil, I have to pay a large percentage of the cost of the engineering if I want to sell my services there, as a foreign company. There is nothing to protect me in this country and the future of my 100 or so employees. I count on the "American" feeling and loyalty from our marine companies to get a job.  That is all what I have left, unfortunately, there are only few of them that still appreciate our contribution to the industry and are able to see beyond the cost of services.

What some of these companies do not see or appreciate is the harm that they cause us, the design companies, by negating us the opportunity of proving and applying our abilities and know-how. It has been very hard to sell our services abroad because of that.  I have been told on my sale trips that we, American designers, do not know how to design vessels or we just know how to design low technology ships.  I have been successful at my business abroad, because I have been able to bring certain things that are unique that is appreciated by them and they are willing to pay for it.

Thus, if we are looking for protectionism, that should be applied to all of us involved in the marine industry and not to special interest parties. We as designers do not need the Jones Act, but the support and appreciation of the companies protected by that act.  We, the design companies, are in the front line of the battle and destroying our technology and invention will undermine our own industry, and does not matter if the Jones Act continues.  We are pulverizing our foundations because we will need to depend on others outside our country for that technology and without that technology in these times and ages, we are doomed. 

We have a Maritime Industry here because we led the world in technology and we promoted it.  I came to this country for school and stayed here because I was raised with the saying that "If the gringos cannot do it, nobody can". I left my culture forty one years ago, because of that saying, and now I see that it is not true anymore.  We have lost the essence of being American; we have lost the know-how, the invention, the leadership and the appreciation to our technological capabilities and instead try to make excuses and rationalizations for that fault. If we do not believe in ourselves and instead try to protect ourselves with laws and other legalities, we will never build this country back, and we need to do it soon.

Best regards,

Guido Perla.


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