This Week in Maritime History

By MarEx 2011-06-01 15:13:03

June 5, 1920 

Congress Adopts Merchant Marine Act - Includes Section 27, also known as the Jones Act

The Merchant Marine Act is a Federal statute that regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and ports. Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act is better known as the Jones Act and deals with cabotage (coastal shipping). The Jones Act requires that all goods transported between U.S. ports to be carried by U.S. –flagged ships, constructed in the U.S., owned by U.S. citizens and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.


Section 27, Merchant Marine Act, 1920
46 U.S.C. § 50101. Objectives and policy
(a) Objectives-
It is necessary for the national defense and the development of the foreign and domestic commerce of the United States that the United States shall have a merchant marine -
•  (1) sufficient to carry the waterborne domestic commerce and a substantial part of the waterborne export and import foreign commerce of the United States and to provide shipping service essential for maintaining the flow of the waterborne domestic and foreign commerce at all times;
•  (2) capable of serving as a naval and military auxiliary in time of war or national emergency;
•  (3) owned and operated as vessels of the United States by citizens of the United States;
•  (4) composed of the best-equipped, safest, and most suitable types of vessels constructed in the United States and manned with a trained and efficient citizen personnel; and
•  (5) supplemented by efficient facilities for building and repairing vessels.
(b) Policy-
It is the policy of the United States to encourage and aid in the development and maintenance of a merchant marine satisfying the objectives described in subsection (a).
46 U.S.C. § 55102. Transportation of merchandise
(a) Definition-
In this section, the term “merchandise” includes-
•  (1) merchandise owned by the United States government, a State, or a subdivision of a State; and
•  (2) valueless material.
(b) Requirements-
Except as otherwise provided in this chapter or chapter 121 of this title, a vessel may not provide any part of the transportation of merchandise by water, or by land and water, between points in the United States to which the coastwise laws apply, either directly or via a foreign port, unless the vessel-
•  (1) is wholly owned by citizens of the United States for purposes of engaging in the coastwise trade; and
•  (2) has been issued a certificate of documentation with a coastwise endorsement under chapter 121 or is exempt from documentation but would otherwise be eligible for such a certificate and endorsement.
(c) Penalty-
Merchandise transported in violation of subsection (b) is liable to seizure by and forteiture to the Government. Alternatively, an amount equal to the value of the merchandise (as determined by the Secretary of Homeland Security) or the actual cost of the transportation, whichever is greater, may be recovered from any person transporting the merchandise or causing the merchandise to be transported.

Also on this day, Congress adopted the Ship Mortgage Act and the River & Harbors Act