Kentucky Passes Jones Act Resolution

The Kentucky legislature has approved a resolution to support the Jones Act.

Titled House Concurrent Resolution 5, the International Propeller Club’s Port of Paducah (Ky.) collaboratively authored the initial resolution language with the American Waterways Operators and took the lead in efforts to pass it.

It was passed on third reading from the Kentucky House of Representatives 35-1 on March 16, signed by the Speaker of the House and the Senate president and delivered to Gov. Andy Beshear’s office.

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

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The Jones Act is formally called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It requires that boats operating in domestic trade be U.S. owned and crewed and that those vessels must be built within the United States.

Port of Paducah Propeller Club President Caleb King said the club has, over the past few years, progressively worked on redefining what it can do, what it needs to do and how it can be of value to the maritime community in Kentucky and the surrounding region.

“In 2020, we started looking for ways to specifically engage with elected officials on matters pertaining to our members’ interest,” he said. “We started by hosting Congressman James Comer in June of 2020, where during our webinar he talked about the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 and other matters related to the river industry. The COVID crisis set us back several months on picking up our next message to work on, but that message became apparent at an American Waterways Operators (AWO) meeting in late 2021 where there was discussion on state-level Jones Act resolutions. The AWO and the Propeller Club are allied in various messages, and the Jones Act was certainly a topic our members would benefit from additional support.”
While the club’s first attempt at a Kentucky Jones Act resolution in 2022 didn’t work out as the club was too late into the 2022 session to get movement, King said, “Clearly the good news is we were successful in the 2023 session to get a Jones Act resolution passed in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.”

King said when he talked about a Jones Act resolution to legislators in the state capital in Frankfort, he brought up three points: jobs, security and continuity.

“Jones Act-protected maritime jobs provide Kentuckians good paying jobs with benefits and a career path that can begin at 18 years of age and, with upward momentum, lead to a six-figure income,” he said. “Kentuckians, as well as others who use the waterways in and around Kentucky, can count on the U.S. mariner to be the eyes and ears for maritime security. Having an observant eye on bridges, locks and dams and other critical infrastructure is quite frankly of national importance. Passing the Kentucky Jones Act resolution aligns our state with others that have passed similar resolutions. Having a state-level unified voice further demonstrates to the federal government that the Jones act is favorable and important to our states and country.”

Similar resolutions supporting the Jones Act have now been passed in Virginia, West Virginia, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi.

“This is a great start but there is more work to be done,” King said. “I certainly would encourage other Propeller Club ports to do whatever they can to help facilitate or lead the charge in getting a resolution in their state. My suggestion would be to collaborate with the American Waterways Operators, and they will be of great assistance. Plus, a unified voice is stronger than an individual voice.”

King expressed thanks to Majority Leader Steven Rudy, Rep. Randy Bridges and Rep. Chris Freeland for sponsoring the resolution and for their support throughout the process.

He also encouraged others to become involved in issues that matter to them.

“Getting a bill or resolution passed can be very important, but it is not the only way to make an impact,” King said. “You can take action individually, but I think being part of, and involved in, an organization like the Propeller Club of the United States, American Waterways Operators, the Chamber of Commerce or many others is a way to optimize learning what you need to know and having a conduit to move your interest forward.”

King said the club is pleased with the outcome of the resolution and already looking toward the future.

“I would greatly like to see our club find the next message to help champion,” he said. “This is something our board of directors has to discuss, and whatever direction we go I’m sure it will be a topic our membership will benefit from.  However, just because we have a Jones Act resolution does not mean it is time to rest.  We have to maintain vigilance and speak up when the Jones Act is violated or unwarranted waivers are pushed through. The Jones Act message must stay strong.”