Over the past several years, the Jones Act has come under fire for its role in high shipping costs and its influence on international maritime trade. However, this law offers protections for the maritime industry as a whole and for maritime workers in New York and elsewhere in the United States.
According to the Seafarers International Union, the Jones Act plays an important role in national security, environmental protection and worker safety and also ensures employment for skilled maritime workers. The Jones Act has jurisdiction over vessels transporting goods between domestic ports, and these vessels must be owned, built and crewed by Americans. This means that these ships—and their workers—must follow United States worker safety laws and environmental regulations.
Therefore, the Jones Act plays an important role in sustaining the American maritime industry. As of 2014, this industry moved 800 million tons of cargo a year on approximately 30,000 inland barges and towing vessels and contributed billions of dollars to the national economy.
Despite criticisms of the Jones Act, Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide reports that this law is expected to fare well under the current presidential administration for several reasons. First, the forecast of increased domestic crude oil production and decreased regulations on the oil industry, paired with a potential limit on OPEC imports, may provide an important boost to American shipping companies. Furthermore, the leadership change at the Central Intelligence Agency removes a very prominent opponent of the Jones Law.
It is important to note that the long-term impact of the U.S. dependency on crude oil production and the overall maritime industry is difficult to predict accurately at this time.