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Hirono Defends Jones Act Importance to Hawaii

Jones Act Ensures Reliable Access To Energy & Everyday Goods For Hawaii

Published Jan 22, 2015 3:35 PM by The Maritime Executive

As the debate over the value of the Jones Act continues, distractors says that the citizens of non-contiguous states like Alaska, Puerto Rico and Alaska are unfairly impacted by the law. This is not so, says Hawaii Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI) who took the floor of the Senate last week to fully support U.S. cabotage of the Jones Act.

Excerpts from Senator Hirono’s speech are below:

“The Jones Act requires that maritime vessels engaged in shipping goods between U.S. ports must meet three requirements: They must be built in the United States, at least 75 percent owned by United States citizens, and operated by United States citizens. The Jones Act helps to shore up our national security by providing reliable sealift in times of war. It ensures our ongoing viability as an ocean power by protecting American shipbuilders.

As a result, the Jones Act provides solid, well-paying jobs for nearly half a million Americans from Virginia to Hawaii.  

In short, the Jones Act promotes national security and American job creation. Therefore, I am unclear why some of my colleagues are opposed to this common-sense law.

I don’t simply say this as a member from an island state where we depend on the reliability offered by American shippers for fresh food, energy, and other everyday goods. But I say this as a Senator that cares deeply about supporting our strong and growing middle class and creating American jobs.

Senator McCain’s amendment would specifically knock out the Jones Act provision that requires U.S. flagged ships be built in the United States jeopardizing good-paying, middle class jobs. To me, that’s reason enough to oppose this amendment.

Secondly, this is not the time to create the instability this amendment would directly cause. After struggling through tough times, America’s shipbuilding industry is coming back.  Both this Congress and the administration have long stressed need for creating and keeping manufacturing jobs here at home in the United States. According to the Navy League, there are 15 tanker ships being built here in the U.S. right now and slated to join our U.S. flag fleet.

The fact is these ships don’t create quick turnaround jobs – but are hundreds of thousands of well-paying, long-term manufacturing jobs.  

If these ships are not built here in U.S. shipyards by U.S. workers, where will they be built? Where will those jobs go? China? Other Asian counties? Europe?

The shipbuilding industry is rebounding. Repealing the Jones Act is a step in the wrong direction. Instead of dismantling a policy that supports American jobs, Congress should be focused on doing more to promote and grow American manufacturing.

Repealing the Jones Act’s requirement to build ships here in the United States will unquestionably cost U.S. jobs and weaken our position as a manufacturing leader. These are two strikes against this amendment.

The third and final strike is the fact that the amendment would undermine our national and homeland security.  

The Jones Act’s requirements—along with the American shipbuilding and maritime industries they underpin— provide American built ships and crews for use by the Department of Defense in times of need. It is easy to see why the Navy and Coast Guard strongly oppose repeal of the Jones Act.”