People in New York may well see billboards that reference the Jones Act, blaming it for excessive congestion on area roads. This is just one of the more recent efforts initiated by The Cato Institute to push for reform of the nation’s laws governing domestic waterways.
As explained by The Cato Institute, the Jones Act places strict limitations on which vessels are allowed to transport goods from one American port to another American port. The only vessels allowed to do this are those that are crewed predominately by American citizens, owned by American citizens, registered in the United States and built in the United States.
Over the past few decades, the number of vessels that qualify to move goods between domestic ports has dropped from 326 in 1982 to 99 in 2019. Some allege that this has contributed to an increase in ground transportation, especially big rigs that clog roads and highways and pollute the atmosphere. In addition, the reduction in qualifying ships has contributed to the closing of many shipyards and the loss of jobs for people who worked in these shipyards or on the vessels themselves which only makes the economic impact of this law more real.
Recently, a Republican Senator from Utah introduced a bill that, if passed, would repeal the nearly one-hundred-year-old Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act. The act is called the Open America’s Water Act of 2019. Few details are known about what provisions may oversee domestic water transport if the Jones Act is successfully repealed or when any such change might take effect.