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The Transportation Institute released a new report showing a 30 percent increase in the number of domestic maritime jobs related to the Jones Act, the nation’s freight cabotage law.

“The industry now employs nearly 650,000 Americans across all 50 states and contributes $154 billion to the nation’s economic growth annually,” according to the study, which was issued March 4.

The study was published by PricewaterhouseCoopers for the Transportation Institute, a Washington-based non-profit organization dedicated to maritime research education and promotion.

Specifically, the report states the Jones Act industry “creates $41 billion in labor income for American workers each year, adds $72 billion annually to the value of U.S. economic output, [and] sustains nearly 650,000 American jobs, with one shipyard job creating four jobs elsewhere in the economy.”

James L. Henry, chairman and president of the Transportation Institute, said, “From shipyards to the high seas, the maritime industry is indisputably contributing to the American economy in a major way. This new study shows the spectacular impact that our industry has on our nation’s overall well-being, especially by providing livelihoods to 650,000 hard-working Americans – thousands of whom proudly served in our military.”

MTD President Michael Sacco added, “This report confirms what we have been saying for decades – the Jones Act is a vital and indispensable law that benefits American workers, the American economy and the American people.”

The Jones Act, part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, stipulates that cargo moved from one domestic port to another must be carried by U.S.-crewed, U.S.-built, U.S.-owned and U.S.-flagged vessels.

The MTD Executive Board reemphasized its longstanding support for the Jones Act by unanimously supporting the following statement when it met last month.

JONES ACT: MORE VITAL THAN EVER

Without question, one of the highlights of last year’s MTD Executive Board meeting was the formal announcement by Seafarers’ Rights International Executive Director Deirdre Fitzpatrick that her organization had completed a years-long study on cabotage laws around the world.

Fully released last September, the study revealed that 91 countries – representing 80 percent of the world’s coastal United Nations maritime states – maintain some form of cabotage law. The report states that these laws are not identical, and describes the Jones Act as the model for others. It also demonstrates that cabotage laws exist across all political, economic and legal systems.

Last summer featured a major study specifically focusing on America’s freight cabotage law and Puerto Rico. Economists from Boston-based Reeve & Associates and San Juan-based Estudios Técnicos, Inc. on July 18 released a joint report, “The Impact of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico,” that concluded the Jones Act has no impact on either retail prices or the cost of living in Puerto Rico.

In addition, the report found that the state-of-the-art maritime technology, Puerto Rico-focused investments, and dedicated closed-loop service offered by Jones Act carriers provide a significant positive economic impact to the island, at freight rates lower or comparable to similar services to other Caribbean Islands.

These findings factually shot down claims from Jones Act opponents, who seemingly blame the time-tested law for every problem under the sun and whose main strategy apparently is to repeat lies loudly and often.

Nevertheless, attacks on the Jones Act continue, both in the commonwealth and on Capitol Hill. Most visibly, the Cato Institute is waging an open campaign to weaken or repeal the law, one which is vital to America’s national, economic and homeland security. In fact, it sponsored a lightly attended forum a few months ago featuring none other than former FMC chairman Rob Quartel, an avowed enemy of the Jones Act.

For years if not decades, the most common attacks on the Jones Act focused on the U.S.-build provision. This has long been seen as the proverbial “camel’s nose under the tent,” and the MTD has been at the forefront of successfully beating back those misguided efforts.

Today, however, Puerto Rico is front and center. Since our last meeting, we’ve contended with everything from harmful proposed resolutions to threats of legislation that would exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, either for a few years or permanently.

In a few isolated cases, we’ve learned that some of the efforts to weaken or kill the Jones Act simply are based on a misunderstanding of the facts. In those instances, our movement and our industry collectively have done solid work in educating people and moving them to the truthful side of this issue.

Far more often, however, the organizations and individuals behind the attacks are just looking to score political points, and/or harm the U.S. Merchant Marine and American-flag operators while boosting foreign flags. They don’t let facts stand in the way.

The facts are that the Jones Act has served the best interests of the United States for almost a century. It helps maintain nearly half-a-million American jobs by requiring that cargo moving between domestic ports is carried aboard vessels that are crewed, built, flagged and owned American.

Fortunately, many supporters recognize the value of this venerable law. To cite just one recent example, here’s what the Congressional Black Caucus Institute’s 2019 Annual Report has to say: The Jones Act “keeps well-paying maritime jobs in American hands and serves as a homeland security force multiplier. Mariners on domestic vessels are fully vetted and credentialed U.S. citizens that serve as extra eyes and ears on the water, helping report and deter threats to homeland security. The U.S. Military Sealift Command depends on the country’s mariners to provide quick mobilization of sealift capacity in the event of a national emergency, and the Department of Defense has consistently emphasized the military importance of a strong domestic shipbuilding industry. In addition, vessels in the U.S. domestic trade are subject to the full array of U.S. safety, environmental, labor, immigration and tax laws, in contrast to foreign vessels that may operate under flags of convenience to avoid labor, regulatory and tax obligations.”

Meanwhile, we would be remiss in not tipping our cap to the Seafarers International Union of Canada and the leadership of its president, MTD Executive Board Member Jim Given. Brother Given continues to lead a very successful battle to promote and protect cabotage laws north of the border. The results have included more jobs and job security for our brothers and sisters in Canada.

The MTD, its affiliates and its Port Maritime Councils will continue to invest every possible resource in the fight to protect the Jones Act and indeed to defend cabotage laws around the world.