Paducah Propeller Club Urges Kentucky Jones Act Resolution

The International Propeller Club’s Port of Paducah (Ky.) has taken the lead in seeking a resolution from the Kentucky legislature to support the Jones Act.

House Concurrent Resolution 5 was introduced January 3 in the Kentucky House of Representatives by its sponsors, Reps. Randy Bridges and Steven Rudy, both of whom represent far western Kentucky counties.

In addition to recognizing the importance of the Jones Act, the resolution also commemorates the centennial anniversary of its passing and encourages Congress to maintain its provisions.

“It was important back in the 1920s, but it’s still important today because it requires that vessels doing domestic trade must be U.S.-owned and U.S.-crewed,” said Caleb King, president of the club’s Port of Paducah.

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The Jones Act is formally called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It also requires that vessels operating in domestic trade on the country’s inland waterways must be built within the United States.

The club sought the resolution after a request by The American Waterways Operators (AWO), which looked for sponsors for similar resolutions in several states.

King noted that in addition to protecting U.S.-based jobs, important to the economy, keeping these jobs housed within the borders of the United States also increases security for the transportation of waterborne commerce.

“These are non-exportable jobs,” he said. “We can’t give these jobs to people in other countries, nor do we want to because there is a security aspect protected by the U.S. mariner.”

That security is protected, in part, because mariners must be U.S. citizens and must undergo a screening to receive their federally required Transportation Worker Identity Cards (TWICs).

Similar resolutions to that in Kentucky have already been passed in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

King said the local Propeller Club took the lead on the resolution because of its position representing 56 different company memberships, including shipyards, towboat and barge operators and ancillary industries.

“All of these people are really relying on the marine industry being successful, and the Jones Act helps protect that,” he said.

In its request for the resolution, King noted Kentucky’s involvement in the inland marine industry. Along with having 1,090 miles of commercially navigable waterways, Kentucky has 10 public riverports, more than 160 private port terminals and 10 ferry operations, he said, quoting the 2022-2045 Long-Range Statewide Transportation Plan. Additionally, 90 million tons of freight are shipped and received on Kentucky waterways annually.

“Nearly 21,000 Kentuckians are employed through maritime-related jobs, generating an estimated $1.25 billion in annual income, and the sector produces an estimated $5.1 billion to Kentucky’s economy,” the letter states. “For all those depending upon a strong, secure domestic maritime trade, we ask your support and adoption of HCR 5.”

Several maritime companies provided letters of support for the resolution.

“The Jones Act provides non-exportable jobs to Kentucky workers that offer living wages and generous benefits and assures the continuity of America’s ability to produce ships and professional mariners despite any changes in the geopolitical environment,” Ingram Barge Company said in its letter.

The Ingram letter also noted that Kentucky ranks fifth among all states for per capita American domestic maritime jobs, with more than 20,700 maritime workers. Ingram Barge Company alone employs more than 400 Kentuckians, it said.

James Marine’s letter of support notes that it is a family-owned inland marine company that has been in business more than 30 years and currently provides employment for more than 1,100 people in Kentucky.

“James Marine employees Jones Act workers as well as employees performing industry-related jobs as it provides full-service support to Jones Act vessels operating on the Mississippi, Ohio, Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers in Kentucky,” President Jeff James wrote. “The Jones Act plays an important role in each of these businesses and contributes to their ability to thrive and contribute, in turn, to a strong Kentucky economy.”

Similar letters of support were provided from American Commercial Barge Line and from Marquette Transportation Company, which has its headquarters in Paducah.