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Alaska podcaster hosts Helton for conversation on Jones Act and PVSA

The 1920 Jones Act and the 1886 Passenger Vessel Services Act are antiquated laws that “impact states like Alaska, Hawaii and the territories like Puerto Rico and Guam especially harder than it impacts the rest of the nation,” according to Grassroot Institute of Hawaii policy researcher Jonathan Helton.

Helton, who has written extensively about both laws, spoke on Nov. 19 with Jeff Landfield, host of the Alaska Landmine Radio podcast, who was in strong agreement with Helton as they discussed how these two federal maritime laws — especially the PVSA — negatively affect the economies not only of Hawaii and Alaska but the nation as a whole.

“They may have had a good justification” back when they were enacted, Helton said, “but they have never been updated, and don’t work very well in the 21st century.”

The Jones Act, Helton said, requires that any ship moving cargo between any two U.S. points be built and flagged in the U.S. and mostly owned and crewed by Americans. The PVSA — which Helton and Landfield focused on for most of the conversation — is similar but applies to the transport of passengers. 

Helton called the PVSA “flat-out confusing” and likened it to “Swiss cheese when it comes to its loopholes.” For example, cruise ships built and flagged overseas may transport passengers between U.S. ports, he said, but they must stop at a foreign port as part of their itineraries. In addition, there are different rules that apply depending on whether that port is considered “nearby” or “distant.”

As for large cruise ships that are allowed to serve the domestic market without stops in foreign ports, Helton noted that “the last large cruise ship that was completed in a U.S. shipyard was in the 1950s. There’s one large cruise ship that actually complies with the law. And that cruise ship is only operating in Hawaii.”

Helton said both the Jones Act and PVSA were intended to protect America’s maritime industry, but in the case of the PVSA, “this law’s not really protecting anyone. There’s no shipyards that are staying in business because they’re building large cruise ships.” 

Helton noted that Alaska U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski introduced a bill to exempt Alaska from the PVSA completely, but it failed to pass. However, Murkowski has said she will introduce the bill again if she prevails in the state’s ranked voting election, the results of which should be known by this week.

Landfield said the passage of such a bill could be a “big positive” for Alaska.

 “If the PVSA went away, or if Alaska was exempt, the cruise ships could have another market of moving people within Alaska or California,” he said.

Helton said the bill does not include Hawaii, but if it were to pass, Hawaii legislators could say, “This is working for Alaska; why can’t we try something similar for Hawaii?” 

To hear the entire interview, click on the video below. A complete transcript is provided.

11-19-22 Jonathan Helton with Jeff Landfield on Alaska Landmine Radio 

Jeff Landfield: OK, joined here, we’re on Zoom with Jonathan Helton. How are you doing, Jonathan?

Jonathan Helton: I am doing great. How are you, Jeff?

Landfield: Pretty good. We’ve chatted a bit. You actually reached out to me; it was a few months ago after I wrote in my Sunday column about how much I hated the Jones Act, which actually was the Passenger Vessel Services Act in this case. And you reached out to me. And you’re with the Grassroot Institute in Hawaii.

Helton: Yes. That’s correct.

Landfield: Can you talk a little bit about that, your background, then we’re going to talk about the Jones Act and the Passenger Vessel Services Act, which both have big impacts on Alaska and Hawaii, among other states.

Helton: Yes, they definitely do. The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii is a nonprofit think tank, and we’re interested in advancing economic freedom and individual liberty [and] accountable government in the state of Hawaii. 

And in this case, we’re looking at the federal issue of the Jones Act because it does impact states like Alaska, Hawaii and the territories like Puerto Rico and Guam especially harder than it impacts the rest of the nation.

Landfield: So how long have you been with the … This is a pretty niche-type issue most people probably don’t…

Helton: Yes, it is for sure. I’ve been working with the Grassroot Institute on the Jones Act for coming up on four years now.

Landfield: OK, so let’s talk about both of these things. There’s the Jones Act and then the Passenger Vessel Services Act. Now the Jones Act applies to cargo and the Passenger Vessel Services Act applies to passengers. Talk a little bit about what that means for ships and where they’re built and how they can function in the United States.

Helton: Right. So the Jones Act — I think most people are a little bit more familiar with it — and it simply requires that all ships that are moving goods between two U.S. points have to be ships that are built in the United States, flagged in the United States and then be mostly owned and crewed by American citizens. 

As you said, that applies to cargo, and the PVSA — the Passenger Vessel Services Act — is very similar. It’s essentially the same thing — all those same requirements — but applies to the transportation of passengers.

Landfield: Now, the Jones Act is like a post-World War I, almost like a protectionist law [from]1920. The Passenger Vessel Services Act goes back to the 1800s, right? 

Helton: Yes, 1886, I believe. Although it’s worth pointing out, people say the Jones Act goes back to 1920 — which it does — but both of these laws come from a history of what are called cabotage laws that were instituted shortly after the nation was founded. So there’s been some version of these laws ever since the United States has been a country. 

Now, you know, they may have had a good justification back then, but in the 21st century, these laws don’t work very well because, as you said, the Jones Act is post-World War I. It hasn’t really been updated since, and neither has the PVSA, which is even older.

Landfield: Well, the reason this came — and I’ve known about this for a long time — I think there was a study many years ago that looked at Alaska and Hawaii, and I think they kind of concluded that the Jones Act hits each family in Alaska and Hawaii to the tune of $2,000 or $3,000 per year in the increased cost of goods for shipping on these ships, American-made ships. 

Now you could have a foreign ship and all these cruise ships are foreign-built and flagged, but they just can’t go from U.S. port to port and unload goods or people, …

Helton: Right.

Landfield: … unless they stop at a foreign port. That’s why all these cruise ships end in Canada.

Helton: So that’s the quirk of the PVSA. The Jones Act is pretty straightforward. If you unload a barrel of oil in California, [and] you want to move that barrel of oil to Hawaii, you have to do that on a Jones Act ship. The PVSA, as you said, it gets a little bit more complicated because …

Landfield: Can you start in California and then stop in Canada and then go to Hawaii? Or no?

Helton: No, you can’t.

Landfield: So it’s got to be from California to Hawaii or back and forth. It’s got to be a U.S.-built, U.S.-flagged ship.

Helton: Yes. If you’re moving cargo between any two U.S. points, it has to be one of those Jones Act ships. 

So as I said, the Jones Act is rather straightforward. The PVSA is not. The PVSA is like Swiss cheese when it comes to its loopholes. 

So if you have a cruise ship moving from Seattle to Alaska, what they’re able to do is, they’re able to take advantage of a loophole that allows them to make a quick stop at a foreign port, which in this case is usually Vancouver. They make a simple stop and then they’re able to continue on their merry way. 

But as a part of that stop, the condition is, if you’re a foreign ship that does not comply with the PVSA, [and] you make a stop at a foreign port, you can’t offload passengers at another U.S. port. 

So all of these tourists who are sailing between Seattle and Alaska, under the law, none of them are allowed to disembark in ports in Alaska. They can get off and walk around, but they have to get back on the ship and they can only disembark at either a foreign port or Seattle. I hope that’s not too confusing. 

Landfield: It was the crux of why I wrote, I guess, it was September, six weeks ago, I went on a cruise; Holland America did an offering for Alaska residents, a pretty cheap at-the-end-of-the-season fare, from Whittier to Vancouver. And I jumped on and it was a thousand bucks all in for a week, room, food, everything. 

And then I had a lady friend who was going to come with me, but she couldn’t go to Vancouver because she had to get off and go back for the weekend to work in Anchorage. She was going to fly back from Juneau to Anchorage, and I told the cruise people this, and they said, “OK, well, there needs to be” — they called it a Jones Act exemption.” But it’s really a Passenger Vessel Services Act exemption. 

“OK,” I said, “here’s the information, here’s the plan, blah, blah.” You can get exemptions and it’s not through the cruise ship company, it’s through the Customs. It’s through the federal government. We get to Whittier, explain it again, and they hadn’t processed the exemption.

The Customs didn’t … It was 10 days, I think, before the cruise that I asked for it, and they wouldn’t … look, they basically said if you get on the ship, and you get off and don’t get back on, it’s, I think it was a thousand-dollar fine that you have to pay.

Helton: Yeah. So, I think it’s a seven hundred-and-something-dollar fine. But the cruise ship could have added on its own fee on top of the legal fee for that.

Landfield: It just seems so kind of ridiculous to me that people can’t just … I’m sure people get sick, or maybe people forget to get on the boat. You know, I guess they have to go to the next port or fly. They have to figure it out. I mean, this must happen.

Helton: Yes, it does happen. There’s been several instances where — I think there was an instance just last month where a cruise ship left a port in Southern California and it was going to head down to one of the ports in Mexico to make the foreign stop. But I believe there was some unrest in Mexico at that time, so the cruise ship, they didn’t want to stop in the port in Mexico. They had to turn around.

So I’m sure on the background, I’m sure they got some workaround through Customs and Border Protection, but that’s not something the media has covered. So you kind of see the initial story and then nothing ever comes out, because the cruise line … gives it to the lawyers, gives it to Customs, and then they hash that out.

Landfield: I didn’t hear about that. Now, the one thing that we did hear a lot about last summer was Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan and Don Young, who’s now passed away, they were very outspoken about this issue with Canada and the cruise ships and not letting cruise ships in, and then, for Alaska, cruise ships [are]  a huge part of our tourist market.

Helton: Yeah, Hawaii too.

Landfield: And the Congress had basically passed an exemption or a temporary halting of the Passenger Vessel Services Act for ships going from Seattle to Alaska, back and forth, because they couldn’t stop and … because the Canadians were crazy with this COVID shit, and they were shutting … I mean, they only a few … like last month only finally fully opened things up. 

I flew back from Vancouver — and this is in September — and they still were making you wear the masks. and it was like a week later they finally stopped.

But Canada was way out there on this stuff. So the Congress actually did pass a temporary lifting or halting of this PVSA, but it was only temporary.

Helton: Yeah, it was. Now, thankfully, Lisa Murkowski has proposed a bill. I can pull up the name of the title real quickly. The bill is called the Cruising for Alaska’s Workforce Act. 

So she proposed this bill last fall after that temporary exemption had lapsed. And what Murkowski’s bill would do, it would exempt Alaska from the PVSA entirely until a large U.S.-flagged cruise ship entered the market.

And I think that’s worth pointing out, because the PVSA, the Jones Act, one of the main rationales behind these laws is that they protect U.S. national security; they’re supposed to ensure a fleet of vessels that the United States can use in times of war. But there’s no large cruise ships that are protected by this law. 

So I think Murkowski’s bill was pretty common sense. It hasn’t passed, but she did say if she’s reelected, she’s going to propose it again in the next Congress. There’s the possibility.

Landfield: That’s what I want to talk about. The PVSA is passengers and then the Jones Act … I talked to somebody who’s a longtime maritime guy and I mentioned how dumb I think these are, but you made a good point. 

What you just touched on is there probably is some reason or some rationale for having American-made ships be around. Especially in time of war, you know, having a naval fleet is important. But I think you could still do that and have American-built naval vessels and ships and then also allow good … 

I guess the other concern is if you have foreign ships moving our goods and our oil and our products around and there’s a war with some country, then they would have a stranglehold on us for essentially moving our resources around, which, I guess, makes some sense too. You want to have your own ships and your own people be able to take care of the needs of the country, of the resources. 

But I don’t know. I understand the national security aspect and I think it makes some sense, but I just question why does it apply to everything?

Helton: Yes, that’s a legitimate question. The Jones Act and the PVSA, they don’t apply to U.S. military vessels, that’s a separate law. If these laws were reformed, you’d still have the Navy building all of its ships in the United States. 

But I think there’s a couple of questions we need to consider when we talk about national security. With the PVSA, there is one — and that’s a very special ship we can talk about later — there’s one large cruise ship that actually complies with the law. And that cruise ship is only operating in Hawaii. 

So this law’s not really protecting anyone. There’s no shipyards that are staying in business because they’re building large cruise ships. 

Landfield: All these big cruise ships between Alaska, they’re flagged in Bahamas or Liberia and they’re built at other places where it’s cheaper. I mean, the taxes are …

Helton: Yes. Yeah

Landfield: This is another thing. Is that me or you? I’m hearing some feedback,

Helton: I think that’s probably me. Sorry.

Landfield: No problem. So, I will say that when the COVID happened, all these ships are flagged in, like I said, Bahamas or Liberia or wherever. I thought it was a little bit preposterous. They were asking for all of these bailouts from the government. They don’t pay any, [or] much, taxes here, because they’re flagged abroad. They’re flagged in these lower-tax countries. But it’s also cheaper to build these ships and have these ships flagged in other countries.

Helton: Yeah, it definitely is. You know, I think Europe has a pretty big portion of the cruise ship-building market. And then I think that East Asia does as well. So, yeah, I mean, in Europe, a lot of those countries have similar standards of living in the United States. But even there, they’ve been building cruise ships for quite a while, so they’ve got the skils that keeps them competitive. Whereas in the United States, the last large cruise ship that was completed in a U.S. shipyard was in the 1950s. That’s how long ago it was. 

Landfield: Really?

Helton: Yeah. So this law’s not protecting anyone,  and it hasn’t for 60 years, pretty much.

Landfield: Do you know if countries in Europe have similar laws?

Helton: Yes. So most countries in the world have some sort of cabotage law where they give some sort of preference to ships that are flying their flag, but the EU is special because you have all of these member states. And so a lot of times what the EU will do is, they will allow ships from member states to operate kind of domestically. right?

The other thing that’s worth noting: Most countries do not require that ships flying their flag and operating in their domestic commerce be built. The United States is one of the few countries that has a what we call a domestic-build requirement for its vessels.

Landfield: I can see on the Jones Act side,  I can see who would be interested in keeping that around. But I mean, who is or what lobby or what group is interested in keeping the PVSA around? It sounds like it’s not really protecting anybody, so why is it still around?

Helton: Yeah, that’s a really good question. As far as we can tell, there are some groups in Canada, really, that want to keep it around. And you see this because, I think …

Landfield: Oh, sure, yeah, because you got to stop in Canada.

Helton: Yeah, they get, I think, $2 billion a year because cruise ships stop there. So they have incentive, and there’s been some reports that Canada has lobbied Congress on this. 

So I’ll give you an example. This was within the past two months. There was a country in Central America — I believe it was Panama —  and there was news that they had hired a lobbying firm to lobby Congress to amend the PVSA to designate Panama as a distant foreign port.

And so that’s important, because if Panama was considered a “distant” foreign port under the PVSA, a cruise ship could pick up passengers in San Diego, California, it could sail them down to Panama, it could run through the Panama Canal, and then it could drop them off in Florida, because Panama was considered a distant foreign port. 

So in Panama’s eyes, they’re looking at this as a way to get tourist revenue. If we can change our legal status under the PVSA, then we’re going to get money. That makes sense from their point of view.

Landfield: So under the PVSA, these ports have to be designated? It can’t just be any foreign port?

Helton: Yes. Right. You have the loophole of a stop and a foreign port, but it gets even more complicated because there’s two kinds of foreign ports. There’s either a nearby foreign port, which would be Canada or Mexico —  those are two common ones that cruise lines stop in — or there’s distant foreign ports, which, I mean, think New Zealand.

For example, a cruise line picks up passengers in California, sails to Hawaii, they visit Hawaii, they cruise around the entire globe. They visit New Zealand or somewhere in Africa. Because they visited those two distant foreign ports, they’re able to disembark passengers at the U.S. East Coast or at a port that they did not pick the passengers up at.

Landfield: So are you saying that New Zealand and some countries in Africa, they’re designated ports that are distant or …

Helton: Yeah, they would be considered distant. And right now, Panama is considered a nearby foreign port. So they’re essentially considered the same as a stop in Canada would be. And if they change that — and they think they can probably make some money off of it.

Landfield: Oh, so if you’re distant, you can disembark people back in the U.S. But if you’re nearby, you can’t disembark people.

Helton: Yeah. If you’re nearby, you can only disembark them in the same port where you embarked them at. So that’s why all of these cruises from Seattle start and end in Seattle. But if you’re distant, you can disembark them at a different port than you pick them up at.

Landfield: It just seems so, I don’t know, it just seems so kind of convoluted. I really wonder why this was maintained and stuck around for so long when …I mean, the Jones Act is straightforward.

Helton: That’s a great point. You said the Jones Act is straightforward. The Jones Act has a lot of costs, but there’s a debate that has more of two sides. 

This one — the PVSA — is just flat-out confusing, and so you see who benefits from it. It’s a foreign country that has hired a lobbyist to lobby Congress so that they can maybe get some more tourist dollars. 

It makes sense for them, but it doesn’t make sense for the United States, you know? And it may make more sense to change the law and to say, “Since there’s no U.S. competitors, maybe it would be OK to allow cruise ships to pick up passengers in San Diego. And maybe if they want to take a cruise up to Seattle, they could do that,” But the PVSA prevents them from doing that right now.

Landfield: So if the PVSA went away, or if this Alaska thing passed and Alaska was exempt, people could — assuming the cruise ships would go along with this —  somebody could get on at Whittier — because right now in Alaska we have an issue with our ferry system, there’s budget issues and some of them aren’t working and it’s the last four years, our ferry — it actually goes back a lot longer than that — but it’s an issue with [the] ferry set schedule and service and getting folks around coastal communities — if the cruise ships were, you know, to allow this — somebody could get on at Whittier and then get off in Juneau, instead of having to go all the way down …

Helton: Yeah.

Landfield: … the cruise ships could maybe — I don’t know if they would even want to do that — but they could have maybe another market of moving people within Alaska or within California, whatever, different states.

There’s also obviously the cruise element, but maybe if just somebody wants to take a two-day trip and they want to go somewhere else and not have to worry about driving or flying.

Helton: Yeah. I mean, that’s absolutely right. In Hawaii, we’ve considered the same thing. Hawaii does not have a robust ferry system. They’ve got a couple of little ferries, but there’s no ferries that visit all of the islands, so that we lost the interisland ferry a couple of years ago. 

So if Hawaii were able to get in under Murkowski’s bill, you could see maybe a foreign cruise ship – you know, they visit Honolulu all the time, they visit other ports in Hawaii as well — maybe someone could hop on in Honolulu, and if they wanted to go to the Big Island, they could do that. But right now, those foreign ships can’t make that move because of the PVSA.

Landfield: You know, I’ve been to Big Island and Honolulu, Oahu and Maui. In March I was in Finland and I went to Estonia and the Baltic Sea — a huge sea —  and there’s a whole kind of network of big ships. They call them ferries, but they’re almost like cruise ships. It was like 10 bucks, 20; it’s cheap, and you can get — I don’t know — obviously, you said the EU, and there’s probably some efficiencies with the way they do things there, but it was just so easy to just book a ticket, get on a two-hour ferry from Helsinki to Tallinn. And there’s all kinds of these things moving around the Baltic Sea. 

And it was just very easy. It wasn’t even that expensive either.

Helton: Yeah. Yeah. Europe, I think, moves something like 40% of its domestic cargo by water. In the United States, I think that number is like 2%. It’s not just the Jones Act to blame for that, but the Jones Act plays a part in why we don’t move goods by water. It makes it a lot more expensive. PVSA is the same thing.

Landfield: So what do you see happening here in the next … I know COVID kind of made this PVSA thing a little more visible in the public. And do you think this Murkowski bill will go?

Helton: Yeah. I think, I would love it if the Murkowski bill were to pass. And I think, I think, that’s a function partly of what’s Congress going to look like — who knows? — and it’s partly how much she wants to push this issue, because, you know, if she’s able to get whoever Alaska’s representatives end up being and then Dan Sullivan on board with this — if the entire delegation is pushing for it — it’s got a pretty good shot.

In Hawaii, one of the problems that we’ve had in working on this issue is that only one of the four members of our congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Ed Case, is actually supportive of Jones Act reform. And so it’s been really hard to move the needle on this issue, because most of our delegation supports the Jones Act. That has a lot to do with the maritime interests.

Landfield: Yeah. I was going to say, why do the other ones support it? Do they have maritime support or …?

Helton: Yeah. So there’s two very large ocean carriers there in Hawaii. You have Matson and Pasha, and there’s a lot of money involved — which I understand — and which is why one of the reforms we’ve been pushing for is maybe a domestic-build requirement reform. 

I’ll give you an example. Just today, Matson announced that it was going to purchase three container ships for $1 billion. So that’s, you know, $300 million a ship. If Matson were to buy those ships in a shipyard in Asia, they could probably pay closer to $100 million per ship. So that’s three times less expensive. 

So if Matson’s able to do that, they’re able to save money, which, in turn, for residents of Hawaii, that’s going to save them money too, because Matson’s not going to pass on the cost of those ships to the people of Hawaii or Alaska.

Landfield: But Matson and other companies are thinking, if they already paid more money, they have it built in the U.S. or, if they’re going to buy ships and pay more, they don’t want … That’s almost understandable. They don’t want to all of a sudden have the law changed and then say, “Well, fuck, we just spent $300 million, now homeboy’s going to come in with a ship for a third of the cost and he’s going to be able to do the same transport.”

Helton: Yeah. You’re exactly right. And that’s part of the reason these laws receive support in Congress from Hawaii’s delegation. Matson and Pasha do not want the additional competition coming in on those Jones Act trade lanes — which, you know, I understand. But you have to ask the question: Who pays for that?

Landfield: Yeah, a lot of states have this and/or cities have this. We in Anchorage experienced this several years ago with Uber. 

We had this medallion permit system for the taxis — and I used to drive a taxi cab in college — and there’s this, you know, government market that was created and you had to have a medallion, and there was only so many of them, and it was kind of a government-made market, and then all of a sudden Uber came in and they eventually let Uber in. 

And those medallions — the people in some cases spent a lot of money on them $100,000, $150,000 — you know, all of a sudden, overnight became basically worthless.

My contention, or my argument, was, “Look, let Uber in, fine, but you have to compensate these people who spent this money on these permits.” Some people spent more, some people had them a lot longer and they spent less. You have to find a way to compensate, you can’t just … because then people just don’t trust the government. You know, and I’d be upset if I was a company that just spent a lot of money on a big ship and then they said, “Well, sorry.” [laughs]

Helton: Yeah. People get upset when you change the rules in the middle of the game. Yeah. That’s why one thing we’re talking about is compensation, and there’s the question: If the Jones Act is really for national security purposes to benefit the entire country, why are the residents of Alaska, Puerto Rico and Hawaii the ones who are paying for the brunt of the cost? 

So that’s where compensation factors in, I think. Maybe we reform the Jones Act, but we compensate for some of these carriers for buying these really expensive ships. And then, if we’re going to support U.S. ship owners and U.S. shipyards, maybe let’s do that through some sort of national program as opposed to just forcing the cost onto just a few areas.

Landfield: So all these huge cargo ships, from China or from all over, and they come to, like, LA or Seattle, these are all U.S.-built ships?

Helton: Well, only if it’s in domestic trade. If it’s moving in international trade, there’s a really good chance it’s not going to be a U.S.-built ship. It’s probably going to be from China, Japan, South Korea.

Landfield: That’s what I thought.

Helton: Those are the world’s major shipyards.

Landfield: So are there exemptions again for foreign goods?

Helton: Yeah. For imports, the Jones Act doesn’t apply. Jones Act, PVSA, they just apply to ships that are moving goods between U.S. ports.

Landfield: That’s interesting. It seems like another kind of strange part to me. You can have all these other goods then on foreign ships, but not …

Helton: Yes, I mean, it used to be back in the founding, you know, there were some requirements that foreign trading ships had to be U.S.-built. But those were repealed over time because people realized that it drove up the cost of shipping. 

And I mean, some people have tried to change the law to require that a certain percent of U.S. exports or imports be carried on U.S.-built ships. And those proposals usually don’t get through because people are concerned that it’s going to drive up the cost, that’s all.

For example, a couple of years ago, there was a representative from California who proposed a bill to require that a certain percentage of U.S. natural gas exports had to be carried on U.S. natural gas tankers. And the Government Accountability Office did a study on this. And they said, basically, if you do this, these exporters are going to have a pretty big problem, because there’s no U.S.-flagged natural gas tankers in the Jones Act fleet. 

There haven’t been natural gas tankers built in the United States since, I believe it was the 1980s. So if we have any in the fleet, they’re extremely old and there would have to be a lot more built if we were going to export natural gas all the time. So that proposal got shut down because I think [unintelligible] natural gas and the energy sectors …

Landfield: Sorry, you kind of …

Helton: … are not on board with that.

Landfield: … had a little bit of a connection issue. Say the last part again.

Helton: I was going to say the energy sector was not on board with having that requirement that a certain percent of natural gas exports be carried on U.S.-built ships.

Landfield: That’s actually interesting right now, because for decades, and 40, 50 years, we’ve been talking about a gas line in Alaska and it’s never gotten done. It’s gotten close a few times. There’s been one governor, the last governor had a deal with China, that kind of fell apart. There’s been stuff with other Asia. 

But now with Putin and Ukraine, and there’s some more renewed interest in maybe doing this thing — which I’m always apprehensive because every governor has some idea about it — but if it were to get built, the export market is in Asia, Japan and Korea. I wonder how that will be? In that case, it’s exporting to a foreign …, therefore, basically any ship could do it?

Helton: Yeah, it would be any ship. It’s possible, you might see some people calling for some of those cargoes to be reserved for U.S. ships, but it’s unlikely that that’s going to pass because the oil exporters are going to say, “That’s going to increase our costs, and it’s going to make us less globally competitive.”

Landfield: Well, it’s a fascinating topic, and I’m glad you … How did you come across Landmine? Do you have like a little, what’s it called, a Google Alert?

Helton: Yeah. No, I’ve got Google alert set up for PVSA and Jones Act. A lot of times people mention these issues, and they get them wrong. And so I try to reach out and say, “Hey.” Especially with the PVSA, right? It’s confusing as all get-out. 

So, you know, if a writer doesn’t understand it, I try to reach out and say, “Hey, you know, I think you’re missing some of the intricacies of the law.” So I hope I’ve been helpful in that.

Landfield: I know, it’s good to chat. Like I said, I think a lot of Alaskans have heard of Jones Act, and recently PVSA with the COVID, but the intricacies, like anything else, when you dig into it, it’s pretty fascinating. 

I mean, I didn’t even realize there was this distant port-versus-closed port thing. And I really hope this Murkowski bill goes somewhere, because I think for Alaska, this could be a big positive impact.

Helton: Yeah. I mean, I hope it does, too. It doesn’t include Hawaii right now. But even if it just passes just for Alaska, that’s an example for us to point to it and say, “Hey, this is working for Alaska; why can’t we try something similar for Hawaii?”

Landfield: Well, Jonathan, I want to thank you for coming on and chatting with me about this very fascinating topic. And I think it’s something that impacts almost all of Alaskans and actually, basically, everybody in the country so, or going on a cruise, to buy some goods. 

Helton: Yeah, it does.

Landfield: Well, keep in touch, and thanks for talking. And if you have any updates, and if there’s any movement on this bill next congress, we can chat again.

Helton: That sounds good, Jeff. I appreciate it.

Landfield: OK, thanks again, Jonathan.

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PETITION: Exempt medical services from Hawaii's excise tax!

To the Hawaii Legislature:

Hawaii families face skyrocketing healthcare costs and a shortage of doctors. Exempting medical services from Hawaii’s general excise tax would result in millions of dollars in savings for residents and help bring doctors back.

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