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Can the Jones Act be waived?

The posts in this blog that reference the Jones Act refer to it in terms of the protections that it provides you as a maritime worker in the event of an injury you sustain while in the service of your vessel. This could make it easy to forget that the Jones Act was part of the larger Merchant Marine Act, whose primary purpose was to build up a merchant fleet sufficient enough to sustain the U.S. and its allies. The complexity of the Act may make it easy to overlook the fact that included within it is the option to waive it. 

Why would anyone consider waiving the regulations imposed under the Jones Act? Accordiong to the U.S. Naval Institute, one of the primary tenets of it is that transportation between American ports be made by ships built in the U.S., and owned and manned by Americans. The benefits once provided primarily by merchant vessels have since been supplemented by other means, and this has led to a diminishing of the U.S. merchant ship fleet. This has led to many merchant ships being foreign-built (or built using foreign materials). Thus, if those ships are to deliver to U.S. ports, then they need to be granted a Jones Act waiver. 

While a waiver would grant foreign-built ships access to domestic ports, it could have the unintended consequences of compromising the protections that if offers to you and your coworkers. The actual effect that a waiver may have in this regard is unclear, as the topic of granting Jones Act waivers is a relatively recent issue. If your vessel is subject to a waiver, you may want to research exactly how it could impact you and your employment-related protections. 

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