Earlier this year, Tennessee’s General Assembly celebrated the Jones Act by passing a resolution in its support. The Jones Act, more properly known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, was named for Sen. Wesley Jones. It has been updated and amended many times, most recently in 2006. It supports and protects the U.S. merchant marine—including on the inland waterways—by requiring that all point-to-point waterborne commerce between U.S. ports be conducted in U.S.-built, U.S-crewed vessels. This is known as a cabotage law, and about 80 percent of all the world’s coastlines are covered by similar laws.
Tennessee’s resolution garnered lots of praise and support from many quarters. The American Waterways Operators praised the resolution, as did the Seafarers’ International Union and a number of barge industry executives in guest editorials, from George Leavell, executive vice president at Wepfer Marine, to John Roberts, the president and CEO of Ingram Barge Line, who wrote in the Tennessean expressing his thanks.
In times of logistics difficulties or inflation, the Jones Act can be a frequent target of critics who don’t understand why it is necessary. Shortsighted bills to repeal it are regularly introduced in Congress, most recently in 2020. As with so many other maritime issues, education must be constant, especially in today’s media environment of short attention spans. Fortunately, the Jones Act has always enjoyed strong bipartisan support, and all members of the maritime industry have always stood by ready to explain and defend it.
America’s Maritime Partnership is a maritime coalition focusing support of the Jones Act. Its website features an interactive map of the U.S. showing exactly how many jobs and economic benefits each state receives from maritime industries supported and protected by the Jones Act. It’s a great resource for Jones Act defenders.
Mississippi, Alabama and Virginia have passed similar resolutions of support. But why not all 50 states? Writing your state representative asking him or her to follow Tennessee’s example and introduce a resolution supporting the Jones Act in your state is a great idea for educating the public, and it’s something you can do today.