Congressional leaders underscore importance of Jones Act

JANUARY 19, 2017 — Providing a rare interlude of bipartisan accord in Washington, the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation held a hearing Wednesday on "The State of the U.S. Flag Maritime Industry" during which congressional and maritime leaders stressed the importance of the Jones Act.

"In order for us to maintain the way of life as we know it as a nation that is secure and is able to project power, be it Navy power or commercial power, the Jones Act is intrinsic to that It is the cornerstone of all of them," said Congressman Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Marine Transportation, in his opening remarks.

In his opening remarks, Ranking Member Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA), stated: "First and foremost, we cannot become complacent in our defense of the Jones Act and our efforts… to raise public awareness of the need for, and the many benefits that flow, from this long-standing maritime policy that has stood for nearly a century."

Those testifying at the hearing included RADM John Nadeau, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy for the United States Coast Guard; RADM Mark H. Buzby, Administrator of the Maritime Administration; Matt Woodruff, President of the American Maritime Partnership; Matthew Paxton, President of the Shipbuilders Council of America; Aaron Smith, President and CEO of the Offshore Marine Service Association; Mr. Bill Van Loo, Secretary Treasurer of the Marine Engineer's Beneficial Association

In an exchange between Congressman Hunter, RADM Nadeau and RADM Buzby, the homeland security impact of allowing foreign seafarers on U.S. waterways was highlighted.

Admiral Nadeau stated, "Security is very important…and that would be a different paradigm should that not all be us, U.S. mariners, U.S. citizens on board those ships."

"[American] mariners are a de facto layer of our national security. If they see something, they will say something. They know what is normal on the waterways," explained Admiral Buzby.

Congressman Hunter concluded, "The Jones Act makes that possible. Period."

This exchange preceded RADM Nadeau's later statement when he reinforced the wide-ranging benefits of the longstanding U.S cabotage law.

"The Jones Act has been in place for nearly 100 years and we see tremendous benefits of the Jones Act in terms of safety, quality, security…the mariners are our industrial base," said Admiral Nadeau.

Sharing insight on the state of the U.S. flagged commercial fleet, American Maritime Partnership President Matt Woodruff described how the Jones Act protects U.S. national and economic security.

"The Jones Act [helps] by maintaining the shipyard industrial base that is vital to national security, providing a pool of mariners who have demonstrated through the ages that they will go into harm's way to support America's interests and defense, and providing commercial vessels for military cargoes," said Woodruff. "[Jones Act] vessels keep vital goods moving between American cities and energy flowing … the industry provides well-paying, family wage jobs that allow Americans to climb the ladder of economic security…we cannot have energy independence or dominance if we have to depend on foreign interests to get our domestic energy out of the ground and to its markets in America."

Matthew Paxton, President of the Shipbuilders Council of America, detailed the value of the Jones Act for both the commercial and private markets, specifically addressing the call for the U.S. shipyard industrial base to build the 355-ship Navy of the future.

"From our industry's perspective, the Jones Act also ensures that the U.S. maintains critical shipyard infrastructure and an associated skilled workforce that can build, repair, modernize and maintain the more than 40,000 vessels of the domestic Jones Act fleet," said Paxton. "This industrial base also ensures there is a sufficient workforce to support the construction and repair of our critical national security fleets."

You can access the witnesses' prepared testimonies HERE and see the video of the actual hearing below 


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