Industry Rises in Opposition to McCain Jones Act Amendment

Senator John McCain

Published Jan 15, 2015 2:56 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Navy League of the United States openly opposes the McCain Amendment (amendment #2) to S.1, which would gut the U.S. shipbuilding industry by striking the U.S. build requirement provisions of the Jones Act, the League said in a statement.

The Jones Act requires vessels in domestic waterborne trade to be owned by U.S. citizens, built in the United States and crewed by U.S. mariners. These provisions keep American shipping companies, shipyards, mariners, maritime academies and thousands of people working. It is a critical component to the long-term sustainability of the U.S. fleet and the health of the U.S. shipbuilding industry. The Jones Act aids in controlling shipbuilding costs for the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard by ensuring the health of the industrial base.

The Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 demonstrates the national security importance of the Jones Act, stating that “coastwise trades laws [such as the Jones Act] promote a strong domestic trade maritime industry, which supports the national security and economic vitality of the United States.”

The loss of the American-built provisions in the Jones Act would have devastating ripple effects on all the sea services. Its immediate impact would be a reduction in the number of ships built in U.S. shipyards, which would result in a loss of jobs, a loss of industrial knowledge and skills, and a loss in America’s edge in shipbuilding quality and technology. This would mean all ships used by our U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, which of course will be built in the United States, would have a higher cost per ship due to increased overhead costs, and would have a less reliable industrial base. A strong industrial base is necessary for innovation and quality. This amendment would increase costs for the sea services during a time of sequestration and tightening budgets, when each dollar our sea services spend must go farther. The impacts would be extremely detrimental to the sea services. 

The Seafarers International Union is urging its members to voice opposition to an amendment being offered to the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline legislation that would repeal a portion of the Jones Act. The legislation is being debated on the floor of the U.S. Senate this week.

“This amendment has no place in the Keystone bill or in Congress,” stated SIU President Michael Sacco. “It is just another attack on the Jones Act, one that could cripple the U.S.-flag maritime industry. We need all hands on deck to defeat this amendment.”

The amendment, offered by Senator John McCain (R-AZ) on January 13, would call for elimination of the domestic build requirement of the Jones Act, the nation’s freight cabotage law which has been in place since 1920. The Jones Act has long been supported by elected officials from both political parties as well as the military because of its economic and national security benefits to the country. The domestic build requirement supports thousands of good paying, middle class jobs. Without it, America’s strategic readiness would be harmed.

The Keystone legislation is expected to take the full attention of the Senate through mid-January. Amendments may be offered and considered during the floor debate.