Long before the release of the movie Captain Phillips starring Tom Hanks, I have written about the importance of the Jones Act to the U.S. economy and U.S. national security. There has been an unprecedented attack on the Jones Act by commentators who seem to care about nothing but money, and forget about the potential effects on the economy and U.S. national security if we eliminate the Jones Act.
With the release of the movie Captain Phillips, we can look at a concrete example of why the Jones Act protects the U.S. economy, the U.S. merchant mariner, and U.S. ship building industry, and U.S. national security.
I have the privilege of representing approximately half the crew of the Maersk Alabama. The Maersk Alabama was hijacked off the coast of Somalia by armed pirates in April 2009. The company that owned the Maersk Alabama is ultimately a Danish company, although Maersk Lines Limited out of Norfolk, Virginia is the named defendant in the lawsuit due to various legal reasons. The crewmembers whose heroic efforts helped save the ship and her cargo from the pirates are protected under U.S. law by the Jones Act and General Maritime Law. Maersk is required by the Jones Act to man the ship with U.S. crews and ensure that the ship isn't manned entirely by foreign seamen.
Why is that important to U.S. economic and security interests?
It's really rather simple. If we allow foreign players to undermine the U.S. maritime industry - which they would - by providing cheap, inexperienced mariners on cheaply and poorly built and maintained ships, then the U.S. maritime economy would face a potential collapse, or at the very least it would shrink substantially. Ships would be built in foreign countries, and manned by foreign seamen, which would devastate the U.S. maritime economy and put tens of thousands of people out of jobs.
U.S. national security would suffer too. It is hard enough to protect our shores from foreign attacks now, especially from individual or small scale terror attacks. Imagine if the U.S. lost control of her fleet, and outsourced the shipping industry to foreign players with lax security or crews that don't face the same level of screening that our U.S. merchant mariners face. We would end up with a gaping hole in our national security. All to please certain interests who want things cheaper, and faster, but not necessarily better, or safer.
It's too bad that it takes an event like a pirate attack to bring our attention to the importance of regulations and laws like the Jones Act. It is imperitive that we protect our ports, our citizens and our country rather than leaving them defenseless in the face of an ever increasing threat.
To read more about the Jones Act and its impact to our nation, click here.