Offshore Oil Rig

The Jones Act was enacted 100 years ago this year by President Woodrow Wilson. Entitled the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the original purpose of the legislation was to provide a boost to a shipping industry that was severely hampered after World War I. Over the decades that followed, it would morph into a piece of vital legislation for both national security and economic success.

The Jones Act requires that all vessels carrying goods between two different American points should be American-owned, built and crewed. For offshore workers, the Jones Act is an essential piece of legislation that they should be familiar with.

Here are a few of the most important things to know about the Jones Act.

The Jones Act creates and protects many American jobs

The Jones Act provides some much-needed stability to various maritime industries in the United States. It sustains approximately 650,000 U.S.-based jobs, which accounts for an approximately $150 billion impact to the U.S. economy. Jobs created and protected by the legislation include longshoremen at ports, truck drivers transferring the goods to the stores, people working aboard vessels and the workers who build those vessels.

A vessel must meet certain requirements for Jones Act participation

There are a number of qualifications a vessel must have if it is to participate in Jones Act trade. The vessel must be:

  • built in America
  • owned by a company that has at least three quarters of its ownership based in America
  • staffed by a crew that is at least 75 percent American
  • “flagged” in America (registered in the United States)

These requirements were initially put in place by President Wilson to ensure greater stability of investment in the American maritime industry, and that stability continues to be vital today, even during times of war or other national emergencies.

The Jones Act has its root in much earlier laws

In some ways, the Jones Act can be considered a descendant of the Tariff Act of 1789, which mandated that all coastwise trade must be conducted on American vessels. The Jones Act took that idea and fleshed it out a bit more, but some of the same general principles apply, including cabotage, or the idea of trade between a pair of ports in the same nation.

The Jones Act is a crucial protector during the pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic showed how much the United States relies on other nations for medical supplies and other essentials. The vast majority of overseas U.S. commerce is conducted by foreign-flagged vessels, which, during times like this pandemic, can make it complicated to efficiently get the needed items if there aren’t U.S.-flagged vessels to also rely on. The Jones Act ensures there will always be a guaranteed level of American carriers doing business, even during times of crisis.

The Jones Act enjoys bipartisan support

Broad, bipartisan support is unusual these days for most types of legislation, but the Jones Act has outstanding support from both sides of the aisle. Military leaders continually call it an essential piece of legislation for national security, and economists say keeping the Jones Act in place is highly beneficial for American workers and commerce.

Interested in learning more about how the Jones Act impacts injured offshore workers? Contact Mark G. Artall, APLC today with any questions you have.

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