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In this article, I will break down the meaning of the Jones Act so you know all there is to know about it!
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Table of Contents
What Is The Jones Act
In the United States, the Jones Act is a federal law adopted to govern maritime commerce.
In essence, in compliance with the Jones Act, goods that are shipped between U.S. ports are required to be shipped using vessels owned and operated by American citizens.
The main objective of the Jones Act is to regulate maritime commerce and activities and provide sailors with legal rights and protections in case they are injured.
Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 is known as the Jones Act requiring all goods to be transported between U.S. ports by ships built and operated by U.S. citizens.
In essence, you can consider the Jones Act to be protectionist legislation forcing Americans to do business with Americans in the context of maritime commerce between U.S. ports.
By requiring that the transport of goods between two U.S. ports be done on American built, owned, and operated vessels, the Jones Act is intended to stimulate the U.S. shipping industry.
On the other hand, this requirement results in increased shipping costs to non-continental U.S. lands such as Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and other territories.
Keep reading as I will further break down the meaning of the Jones Act and give you some historical background on it.
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The Jones Act History
The Jones Act was adopted following the first World War in order to support the U.S. shipping industry.
The Act is named after Wesley Jones who was a U.S. senator from the state of Washington who was responsible for introducing this piece of legislation.
At the time the Jones Act was passed, the state of Washington generated important revenues from the shipping industry.
As such, by requiring that goods be transported on ships made in the U.S., owned by U.S. citizens or permanent residents, and operated by a majority of U.S. crew, it gave the state of Washington an economic boost.
Particularly, the state of Washington ended up with a monopoly over the shipment of goods to Alaska.
However, since Jones Act requires that goods transported between two U.S. ports be mandatorily done on U.S. ships, owned by U.S. persons, and operated by U.S. sailors, it resulted in increased shipping costs between different states and U.S. territories.
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Objectives of The Jones Act
Following World War I, the U.S. economy was adversely impacted.
In addition, the U.S. shipping industry was severely impacted by the devastation of the war.
Considering the importance of the shipping industry to the economy and the need to rebuild following the war, the US adopted a federal law called the Jones Act to stimulate the shipping industry.
As such, by requiring that goods be transported between U.S. ports on U.S.-built, owned, and operated vessels, the US government intended to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign nations.
At the same time, the Jones Act also provided certain legal protection to U.S. sailors when they are injured on the job.
For instance, sailors are given the right to file a claim for damages against their employer for the negligence of ship owners and the conduct of the captain or other crew members.
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How The Jones Act Requirements Work
The Jones Act was originally adopted to support and stimulate the US shipping industry.
In this context, the law requires that maritime commerce in US waters and between US ports be carried out by ships built in the US, owned by US persons, registered in the US, operated by US persons, and bearing a US flag.
The net effect of this requirement is that it prevents foreign ships from carrying cargo between US ports.
For example, if a foreign ship arrives at a US port with inbound goods, it cannot load goods in at a US port to go to another US port.
However, a foreign ship can offload goods at a US port and travel to another US port without picking up any additional goods from the port where the goods were offloaded.
The Jones Act requirements have been highly criticized over the years as it results in higher maritime transport costs to Americans.
For example, there are reports that show maritime transport in compliance with the Jones Act to Puerto Rico costs nearly twice what it would have cost if carried out on foreign ships.
On the one hand, proponents of the Jones Act argue that it helps the American shipping industry and helps keep maritime jobs in the US.
On the other hand, opponents argue that the Jones Act results in greater shipping costs, more financial burdens on the government, and higher prices paid by the general public.
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The Jones Act FAQ
What is the Jones Act?
Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 called the Jones Act deals with cabotage and maritime commerce.
The Jones Act requires that maritime commerce between US ports be carried out using US flag ships, owned, registered, and operated by US persons.
The purpose of the Jones Act was to protect the US shipping industry after World War I.
What is the purpose of the Jones Act?
There are several reasons why the Jones Act was enacted by the US government.
In essence, following World War I, the US government was left with a depleted shipping industry while recognizing it was a strategic and important one.
Jones Act was adopted as a means to revitalize the US shipping industry in the wake of the first World War.
Another key reason was that imposing American built, owned, and operated ships to operate within US ports, helped strengthen national security and reduce the risk of foreign attacks.
Furthermore, since the Jones Act requires that ships be built in the US and operated by US persons, it allows the US government to maintain a minimum level of expertise in the shipping industry so it won’t have to rely on other nations in case of an emergency or particular need.
Why is the Jones Act criticized?
The Jones Act has been criticized for many years now and many consider it to be an old and outdated 100-year-old piece of legislation.
The main critics argue that the Jones Act results in higher costs to the US population when moving cargo between US ports.
This is particularly the case when going from Hawaii, Alaska, Guam, and Puerto Rico.
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So there you have it folks!
What does the Jones Act mean?
In a nutshell, the Jones Act is a federal statute regulating U.S. maritime transport of goods, cabotage, and offers legal protection and maintenance to U.S. merchant marines.
As such, the Jones Act requires that the shipment of goods between U.S. ports be done on ships built in the United States, owned by U.S. persons or companies, and operated by U.S. citizens or permanent residents.
In essence, maritime trade should be conducted on US-flag ships when dealing with ports within the United States.
The Jones Act also provides seamen and sea women the right to bring a claim against their employer for damages caused by the ship owner’s negligence, the captain’s wrongdoings, or that of other crew members.
Now that you know what Jones Act is all about and why it’s important, good luck with your research!
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