Here they go again. Every time anything to do with infrastructure or the supply chain grabs the public’s attention, you can trust the small but loud anti-Jones Act faction to try to exploit the situation by tying its tired tin can to the news cycle—even when the Jones Act has absolutely nothing to do with it.
We are speaking about language recently circulated by Sen. Mike Lee of Utah who is trying to get it made into another anti-Jones Act bill. Lee’s so-called “Stop the Grinch Act” would require the Department of Homeland Security to grant waivers to foreign vessels transporting goods between U.S. ports (which they are not allowed to do under the Jones Act) if they are “relieving a port’s congestion, backlog or delay” or in “lightering” cargo from an anchored vessel to a U.S. port.
The leading ocean carriers whose vessels are piled up in Los Angeles and Long Beach are not Jones Act carriers; they are foreign-owned blue water carriers that already carry cargoes from overseas ports to U.S. ports, and thus don’t operate under the Jones Act. They group together in cartels called alliances to maximize efficiencies, scale costs and reduce route redundancies.
A primary cause of the supply chain issue is exploding consumer spending thanks to stimulus packages that increased consumer confidence. After temporarily cutting back their spending in the early days of COVID lockdowns, consumers are spending more—and have more to spend.
Another cause of the supply-chain crisis is the chronic shortage of truck drivers, chassis and containers in the right places due to COVID-related slowdowns everywhere, including Asia.
Lee’s bill can do nothing about any of those issues. Lee’s anti-Jones Act language fools only those who have paid no attention to the real causes of the supply chain crises. It’s another Trojan horse for the interests of oil companies.
That’s why both The American Waterways Operators and the American Maritime Partnership strongly oppose this unnecessary legislation, which both organizations said would have “no positive impact on current supply chain challenges.”
There are some indications the supply chain crisis is easing. Shipping rates are still high but falling a bit. Port ship backlogs are going down. U.S. retailers have managed to stockpile holiday goods; one business publication reports that Target has $2 billion more in inventory than it did at this time last year.
So while we are enjoying a happy and healthy holiday season with our loved ones, let’s be sure to give thanks to our tremendous Jones Act mariners who have done such a great job throughout the entire COVID-19 period, both blue-water and brown-water.