Jones Act supporter didn’t realize we agree on saving maritime jobs

The following is a letter to the editor that was published Aug. 20, 2021 by The Garden Island newspaper on Kauai. Written by Mark Coleman, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii communications director, it was a response to a letter in the same paper three days earlier, “Jones Act ensures US jobs,” which in turn was a response to an Aug. 15, 2021, commentary by Institute President Keli’i Akina, “Isle residents need relief from Jones Act burden.” 

Jones Act costs shipbuilding, seafaring jobs

The Grassroot Institute of Hawai‘i shares Paulo Tambolo’s concern about “loss of U.S. jobs.” (“Jones Act ensures U.S. jobs,” Forum, Aug. 17).

The recent commentary by Institute President Keli‘i Akina (“Island residents need relief from Jones Act burden,” Forum, Aug. 15), did not address the jobs issue directly, but it did mention there would be 9,100 more jobs in Hawai‘i — U.S. jobs — if not for the Jones Act, based on a 2020 study commissioned by the institute.

The institute’s newest report, “Five myths about the Jones Act,” explains that U.S maritime jobs have declined over the past many decades, whereas if the act were reformed, shipping activity would increase, leading to more maritime-related jobs.

As the report notes, 300 U.S. shipyards closed between 1983 and 2013, leaving only four shipyards as of July 2021 that build large, oceangoing ships for the commercial market — and three of those are foreign-owned!

Further, “As the output of these four shipyards has plunged, so has shipbuilding employment — by nearly in half, from 180,000 in 1980 to 94,000 in 2018. The number of Jones Act ships has dropped from 193 in 2000 to 96 as of February 2021. With a generous estimate of two, 25-member crews for each vessel, that’s a loss of 4,800 seafaring jobs.”

And just to be clear, “dockworkers, stevedores, truckers and other ‘indirect and induced’ jobs do not owe their jobs to the Jones Act. Maritime-cargo transport would exist with or without the Jones Act, which serves only to limit competition. If more foreign shipping were allowed in, there would be more maritime-related workers needed.”

Tambolo was right when he said we in Hawai‘i are “captive consumers.” A few American corporations control the shipping of cargo between U.S. ports, thanks to the Jones Act, and consumers here and throughout the U.S. have no choice but to pay for it, through higher prices and fewer jobs.

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