Leaders Validate Continued Importance of U.S. Cabotage Laws 11/06:
The 105th Congress soundly rejected efforts to weaken or even abolish the nations cabotage laws, underscoring the continuing need for and benefits of the Jones Act and other U.S. maritime cabotage laws. In doing so, Congress teamed with the Administration and military leaders to reaffirm that the movement of cargo and passengers between U.S. ports in vessels that are U.S.-owned, U.S.-built and U.S.-crewed not only provides safe, reliable and cost-efficient transportation options for American shippers and their customers, but plays a vital role in the countrys economic and national security.
Nothing better illustrates Congress strong support for the Jones Act than House Concurrent Resolution 65. This statement of full and strong support, co-authored by Congressmen Joe Moakley (D-MA) and the retiring Gerry Solomon (R-NY) achieved a bi-partisan majority of the House (218) within 5 months of its April 1997 introduction. When the 105th Congress finally adjourned on October 21, 1998, H. Con. Res. 65 boasted more than 240 co-sponsors. In stark contrast, no bill proposing to change any part of the Jones Act or related cabotage laws garnered more than 15 co-sponsors.
Another vote of confidence came earlier in the 105th Congress when clear majorities of members on all House subcommittees with jurisdiction over the Jones Act signed Dear Colleague letters stressing the absolute need to keep the cabotage laws inviolate.
House and Senate committees and subcommittees held hearings on bills that would have changed one or more of the three elements of cabotage. In each instance, the Maritime Cabotage Task Force presented oral and written testimony and no legislation was ever reported out of committee.
The Administration similarly voiced its continued support for the Jones Act on several occasions. President Clintons Maritime Day Proclamation of May 22, 1997, stressed "the continuing importance of our U.S. domestic maritime fleet to the maintenance of our Nations commercial and defense maritime interests." U.S. Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater repeatedly emphasized that U.S.-owned, -built and -crewed vessels are the cornerstone of this nations successful maritime policy.
U.S. military leaders also specifically endorsed the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act. In January of this year, the head of the militarys U.S. Transportation Command, General Walter Kross, stated flatly that "the Jones Act is a proven performer that supports both our nations military security and its economic soundness." Likewise, the U.S. Navy declared these laws "vital to our national security."
At the request of Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, early this year the Government Accounting Office (GAO) reviewed and dismissed a previous International Trade Commission (ITC) study that estimated the Jones Act costs the economy $2.8 billion a year. GAO not only found much of the ITC data seriously flawed or simply unverifiable, but also criticized the ITCs assumption that freight rates would decrease if foreign flag ships were allowed into domestic commerce - an assumption that would work only if such ships could operate exempt from all U.S. laws, regulations and taxation.
To help counter media attacks on the U.S. maritime industry, and to better educate the Congress and the public on the importance of the industry to the United States, the Maritime Cabotage Task Force produced several significant documents to update America on the domestic fleet. For example, Full Speed Ahead, released in March 1997, reported that the Jones Act fleet has doubled in size and tripled its productivity since 1965. (The gains are even greater if tracked back to 1920, the year of the Jones Acts passage.) Indeed, productivity in the domestic maritime industry has increased at a rate four times that of gains in the U.S. economy generally.
MCTF Chairman Phil Grill thanked the House and Senate for their support. "Legislators throughout the country confirmed that the Jones Act works for the benefit of all Americans. We at the Task Force look forward to partnering with Congress, the Administration and our customers to ensure that the Jones Act fleet continues to meet the existing needs of commerce as well as the transportation challenges of the 21st century"
Visit the Maritime Cabotage Task Force home page for complete details