WJ Editorial
WJ Editorial

The Jones Act and Globalization In The Age Of COVID-19

To mark National Maritime Day this year, our friends at the American Association of Port Authorities are recommending that vessels—whether berthed or working—sound four blasts on their horns at noon each day between May 18 and May 22, Maritime Day itself. This year’s commemorative focus, says AAPA, is on the great work maritime vessels are doing moving COVID-19 response supplies around the country.

Another way to honor the importance of the domestic maritime industry is to continue to vigorously support the Jones Act. Oil companies have tried to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to argue for waivers or exemptions to the Jones Act even though, as a letter from seven Republican ssenators to the administration argued, “There is absolutely no connection between the Jones Act and COVID-19.” In one sense that’s true: oil companies will use any excuse, from hurricanes to pandemics, to push what has been a long-time goal for them.

There is a connection in another sense, though. The only argument opponents of the Jones Act have is lower prices for shipbuilding and some goods (they claim). That’s the same argument that has driven globalization over the past few decades: freer trade and lower prices “ultimately” benefit everyone, even if in the short term, entire industries departed America for overseas.

The COVID-19 crisis has helped fuel a broader conversation about the costs and benefits of globalization: a conversation some say is long overdue. Suddenly our dependence on China for a wide range of goods, from medical supplies to pharmaceuticals, appears as a vulnerability rather than a benefit. Global supply chains have been broken, some perhaps never to be reconstituted as shippers must now consider their vulnerability to pandemics.We certainly are not opposed to trade, upon which our vessels depend. But our industry has unfailingly argued that the Jones Act, which ensures American ownership and control over the vessels on our waterways, is a matter of national and economic security.

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So when you hear four blasts on a vessel’s whistle or horn, it’s a great time to remember and honor the maritime industry and give silent thanks to Jones Act defenders.