Damage done to Puerto Rico by the Jones Act illustrates the need to repeal the law

By now, you’d think the case for repeal of the protectionist Jones Act, a century-old relic from the Woodrow Wilson administration, would be so strong that we could close our laptops and declare the battle over. But we can’t, and it’s unfortunate because millions of Americans, including Puerto Ricans following Hurricane Maria last year, are paying hugely inflated prices for gasoline and other consumer products, thanks to a powerful maritime lobby.

In 1920, the year the League of Nations was established and American women gained the right to vote, Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act, also known as the Jones Act, ushering in a form of protectionism for America’s shipping industry and seafaring unions that remains on the books today. The Jones Act requires vessels carrying goods shipped in U.S. waters between U.S. ports to be U.S.-built, U.S.-registered, U.S.-owned and manned by crews, at least 75 percent of whom are U.S. citizens.

This means for example that oil shipped from ports in Texas and Louisiana to refineries on the East Coast must be carried by U.S.-flag tankers, which imposes significantly higher shipping costs on companies and results in higher crude oil prices and eventually higher prices at the pump for Americans. By being denied access to competitive international shipping rates, U.S. companies bear much higher shipping costs for many goods, which are passed on to consumers. For instance, repealing the Jones Act statute would reduce the cost of transporting petroleum products by vessel because foreign-flagged ships can currently transport oil for an estimated one-third of the cost of U.S. vessels.

Read more of this Hill article by Mark J. Perry by clicking here.