Zukunft Defends Jones Act

In his outgoing “exit exam” speech May 9 as his term of office comes to a close, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Paul F. Zukunft strongly defended the Jones Act and warned about “severe repercussions” if it were repealed.

Zukunft spoke to the Center for International and Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C., in a conference co-sponsored by the Norwegian Institute for International Studies about challenges facing the U.S. in the Arctic. He discussed the retreat of Arctic ice and its consequences, the potential for oil and gas exploitation and the competing interests of Russia, China and the U.S. in the region. He highlighted the progress of the Coast Guard’s icebreaker program it has been promoting for 20 years. Five shipyards are competing to build the icebreaker, he said.

During a question period, he agreed that the U.S. needs to sign the Law of the Sea convention, a series of agreements signed between most maritime nations between 1973 and 1982 that the U.S. has long avoided signing.

Zukunft also warned, “Here’s what happens if we repeal the Jones Act. All our coastwide trade will probably be done by a third nation, namely China–not just coastwise trade, but plying our inland river systems as well. If we’re looking at, hey, we can lower the cost of doing business, we can have a third nation do it on our behalf.

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“The next thing that goes away are our maritime academies. You don’t need them because we have foreign mariners. We don’t know who they are, but they’re foreign mariners plying our waters, and our internal waters as well, to conduct maritime commerce, which is a $4.6 trillion enterprise in the United States.

“And then the next thing that goes is our shipyards, our shipyards and the technology that goes with the shipyards.…This is not the time and place to go after the Jones Act.”