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The controversy around the Jones Act

Many people in New York may be aware that there are laws governing maritime passage and commerce in U.S. waterways. One of these is called the Jones Act or the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. At nearly a century old, this law today has its share of both supporters and opponents. People in the former category herald the law as an important element in supporting American jobs and national security. People in the latter category suggest the law should be done away with. 

At its core, the Jones Act bans any ship from transporting goods between domestic ports unless it meets certain criteria. As explained by NBC News, this includes being owned by an American citizen, being staffed with crew members who are American citizens or permanent residents only and being built on U.S. soil. Some exceptions may be made as was done after Hurricane Maria in order to allow more aid to be brought into Puerto Rico but that lifting of the ban was short-lived.

Those who support the Jones Act point to its role in safeguarding and creating jobs for American workers in the maritime industry as well as its ability to keep a tight rein on national security by limiting foreign vessels in U.S. ports and waters. Critics say the act makes it very expensive to build ships and forces consumers to end up paying the price.

Forbes notes that one negative repercussion of repealing the act might be damage to the U.S. maritime industry as it may be unable to compete with lower-priced foreign competitors. It may even pull transport business away from domestic railroads.




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