Since the nation’s founding, innovation has been the fuel propelling the economic growth of the country, largely made possible by maritime trade. In fact, the sea has long been recognized as vital to economic and military strategies. Many have begun to question however, if one maritime policy is in need of reform. Commonly known as the Jones Act, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is a protectionist law created to shield the domestic shipping industry from foreign competition. Even as far back as the first congress, the nation has looked for ways to safeguard mercantile trade by sea. Has the very act designed to safeguard the U.S. shipping industry proved to be a speedbump on the road to global competition?
Under current legislation, trade between U.S. ports is required to be carried on U.S.-built ships, which means U.S. owned, flagged, and operated by a crew of 75 percent American citizens. These stipulations are stifling to our nation’s growth and eliminates cabotage, the opportunity to compete with foreign energy producers within the United States. The Act was also designed to ensure steady order for the domestic shipbuilding industry. Whether in times of peace or war, the goal was to provide a sufficient number of U.S. flagged vessels which could be called upon should the need arise to project American forces abroad in a time of crisis.
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