MYTH: The Jones Act protects national security

The following is taken from the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii’s July 2021 policy brief, “Five myths about the Jones Act,” by institute research associates Josh Mason and Jonathan Helton.

Perhaps the most common argument in defense of the Jones Act is that it ensures the U.S. will have adequate merchant marine capability in times of war.1

The U.S. Maritime Administration, however, estimated in 2017 that the U.S. would be 1,839 mariners short for needed operations and commercial activities during a wartime scenario.2 In addition, none of the 60 ships in MARAD’s Maritime Security Program are part of the Jones Act fleet, since none were built in the U.S.3

Meanwhile, America’s capability to transport certain commodities that could be useful during wartime has diminished.

For example, despite the U.S. being a major exporter of liquefied natural gas, some states in the New England area recently had to import the fuel from Russia, since there are no Jones Act ships that can carry LNG from exporting states such as Louisiana to other states such as Massachusetts.4 Puerto Rico also imports LNG from Russia.5

So, despite the myth that the Jones Act protects America’s national security, the reality is that it puts America’s national security at risk.

  1. The Jones Act,” American Maritime Partnership, 2020
  2. Maritime Workforce Working Group Report,” U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration, Sept. 29, 2017, p. 32.
  3. Maritime Security Program (MSP),” International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots, accessed March 20, 2021. The 60 privately owned vessels in the MSP fleet are U.S flagged but foreign built. See Sec. 3508: Extension of Maritime Security Fleet Program,” in “Public Law 112-239: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013,” 112th Congress, Jan. 2, 2013.
  4. Colin Grabow, “Why Is the United States Importing Natural Gas From Russia? The National Interest, Oct. 26, 2019.
  5. Ibid.

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