Jones Act Dead at 91

By Tony Munoz 2012-11-21 10:58:00

By Tony Munoz
Editor-in-Chief of the Maritime Executive Magazine and the MarEx Newsletter

The Jones Act died last week from injuries suffered when a run-a-way drilling rig illegally ran a red light. Witnesses said the rig had performed a questionable maneuver known as a ‘bank-shot’ before racing towards the oil-rich sanctuary called the Kitchen Lights.

The Jones Act had stepped into a legal right-of-way, which has been in place since 1789 when the Founding Fathers restricted coastal trades to American companies. Witnesses to the carnage said the rogue rig seemed to intentionally run the old maritime law over while an angry crowd of Alaskans cheered it on.

Born on March 2, 1917 as section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act was signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson. The Act was a reaffirmation of the Cabotage laws passed by every congress since the founding of the nation. The Jones Act was introduced by Senator Wesley L. Jones and Senator John F. Shafroth in 46 U.S.C. 883; 19 CFR 4.80 and 4.80b in order to promote a healthy U.S. flag fleet and protect jobs from unfair foreign competition.

While at least 47 other countries also restrict foreign access to domestic trade, the Jones Act had been under attack by Laissez Faire interests demanding open access to U.S. waterways for foreign vessel operators in order to save consumers about $2.8 billion every year. Last year, the Jones Act came under attack by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), who also killed the ‘Buy American’ provision in the Recovery Act, when he proposed  the ‘Open America’s Water Act of 2010’ because the Jones Act supposedly hindered free trade and favored labor unions over consumers.

Escopeta Oil, who is accused of deliberately running over the Jones Act, had leased the Spartan 151 drilling rig and transported it from Houston to Vancouver, Canada on a Chinese heavy lift ship. When informed that it was in violation of a bona fide U.S. law, Escopeta was heard to say, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead, there’s a $25 million tax credit at stake.” Escopeta’s actions were seemingly provoked by the “Stampede Act,” which was drafted by the Alaskan legislature to entice companies to drill in Cook Inlet and receive generous royalties and incentives.  The company simply shrugged its shoulders upon hearing the Jones Act had been fatally injured.

Friends remember the Jones Act for its ability to create about 500,000 jobs and generate about $100 billion in economic output. They also recall how Jones Act vessels and crews helped in the evacuation of New York City on 9/11, assisted  the Gulf Coast in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, provided immediate relief to Haiti’s earthquake victims, and saved the survivors of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion as well as providing much of the labor force during the subsequent oil spill cleanup.

The Jones Act is survived by the Maritime Administration and 320 million Americans dependent on law and order, the Maritime Security Program (MSP), Voluntary Intermodal Sealift Agreement and the U.S. Armed Forces. In lieu of flowers, U.S. vessel operators and mariners, now subject to further infractions, simply ask that all Americans hang their heads in a moment of silence in remembrance of when the rule of law prevailed over their nation.


Tony Munoz can be reached at tonymunoz@maritime-executive.com.

The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.