Jones Act fleet loses another ship, leaving Hawaii one oil tanker short

America just lost another ship from its dwindling Jones Act fleet, an oil tanker named the Houston that counted the islands of Hawaii among its ports of call.

According to Grassroot Institute of Hawaii research associate Jonathan Helton, the 37-year-old Houston is now in India to be dismantled for salvage, reducing the number of Jones Act-qualified oceangoing commercial vessels to only 93, down from 257 in 1980.

The Jones Act is a 1920 federal law that requires all cargo transported between US ports be carried on ships that are US flagged and built, and mostly owned and crewed by Americans.

A 2020 study commissioned by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii found that the law costs Hawaii residents about $1.2bn annually, or about $1,800 per average family.

Last year, there were 17 tanker movements from the US mainland to Hawaii. The Houston completed eight of them, with six other tankers making the remaining nine trips. The Houston also made 17 movements between Honolulu, Barbers Point and other ports in Hawaii.

The Jones Act prevents foreign-flagged vessels from transporting oil from the US mainland to Hawaii, and that, ironically, has made it cheaper for Hawaii’s sole oil refinery, Par Hawaii, to import oil from foreign oil sources.

In 2014, the Hawaii Refinery Task Force concluded that the Jones Act was a major reason Hawaii is almost wholly dependent on foreign oil, since importing oil from the US mainland aboard Jones Act tankers is more expensive.

In March, President Biden banned Russian oil imports to the US. Hawaii had been purchasing between a quarter and a third of its crude from Russia in recent years. The ban likely means Hawaii will need to import more crude from the US mainland.

Keli‘i Akina, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii president and CEO, said, “The loss of the Houston is more proof that the US-build requirement of the Jones Act should be lifted, so companies such as Matson and Pasha and other Jones Act carriers can buy and use less expensive foreign-built ships to serve Hawaii’s needs.”

According to Helton, building a tanker in the US costs roughly three to four times more than building one abroad.

Kim Biggar

Kim Biggar started writing in the supply chain sector in 2000, when she joined the Canadian Association of Supply Chain & Logistics Management. In 2004/2005, she was project manager for the Government of Canada-funded Canadian Logistics Skills Committee, which led to her 13-year role as communications manager of the Canadian Supply Chain Sector Council. A longtime freelance writer, Kim has contributed to publications including The Forwarder, 3PL Americas, The Shipper Advocate and Supply Chain Canada.


  1. Ok, I’m calling BS on this story.

    Splash24/7 is better than this. You didn’t even write this piece. You just rehashed a story written by the Grassroots Institute press release.

    Is this the ‘journalism’ you have stooped to?

    Another swing and a miss by the US Flag hating #grassrootsinstitutehawaii and their attack on the #jonesact

    This story discusses the M/V Houston which went out of service last year in October. She was quickly and easily replaced by the M/V Florida, a 2013 built tanker operated by #crowley and part of a class of 600’ parcel tankers designed to carry multiple clean grades of product built by Aker shipyard.

    The Houston’s absence was hardly felt by anyone much less noticed by local residents. The Florida has been running routinely since last October. I’ve handled the ship many times myself in and out of Honolulu Harbor. She is on a routine run between a refinery in Tacoma and Oahu. She delivers refined products as needed (gasoline, ethanol, etc) and also black crude oil.

    While the basic point of their story may be true, the writer Helton, in true Jones Act hating style, obfuscates his piece to denigrate US Flag shipping. His idea of “ensuring Hawaii’s energy security” is to turn to China and rely on the Communist Chinese Party (CCP) to provide what America needs. Cheap ships.

    After two years of a global pandemic caused by the CCP it makes you wonder, where have the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii been these last two years? Didn’t they learn anything about the CCP during COVID?? Why would we want to outsource another industry to China and depend on them for anything these days? Clearly Helton and his followers are willing to do anything for the Kock Brothers that fund their little organization … as long as they keep up their rabid attack on the Jones Act.

    1. Yes not to mention the taxes we paid on Jones act.i don’t believe this lady paid the taxes we do

    2. Haaaaaaa, like China is the only country in the world that builds tankers. Capt Enos is as dishonest as the people he’s attacking. You can tell by the fact that he throws the obligatory “Koch brothers!” jab in there. That’s always a dead giveaway.

    3. Yes let’s do away with the jones act. Let’s let China take over our shipping needs they do it cheaper with disregard to American standards . Hell we can let them dump their ship trash old oil etc in our waters but best thing we can do is trash the jones act let other countries do it for us, an when they decide to sanction the United States an stop delivery let’s watch the destruction of America.

    4. Hello my friend, your letter is a two thumbs up. Any organization that has to do with the Koch brothers is simply not to be trusted

    5. Thanks Capt. Enos. Sailors employed in the Jones Act trade pay taxes in their home jurisdictions. Also money they spend in those same areas. A good source of revenue that local governments & business would miss.

  2. Well stated Captain Enos. Thank you for putting this “article” in check.

  3. American Flag Society. org
    Needs to reinforce…Made in the USA….our fleet has dwindled…
    Practically everything you see
    In stores is @made in China” or
    Other foreign ports….our DEAR fellow AMERICANS…..BUY AMERICAN, protect the future of OUR BELOVED COUNTRY,

    1. There were 1104 us flag vessels in1967 when I graduated Tx Maritime Academy. Gulf, Texaco, Humble, Mobil, Sabine, and Sun Oil were the major tanker Companies🤠

  4. The same situation happens to Puerto Rico !
    The Crowley Mafia handless all the Cargo monopoly .

    1. That’s wrong, but good try. Tote is there, TrailerBridge is there and plenty of foreign Flagged ships there. PR wants all the advantages of the US without putting their fair share into the pot 😂

  5. Captain Enos,
    Thank you for the straight scoop and your shipping service. See you on the seas!


  6. The Jones Act is protectionism pure and simple. It is designed to protect one segment of the US marine industry from (foreign) competition. The article is correct in stating that protectionism increases costs. The only thing the article lacks is a discussion of whether such anti-capitalist protectionism is warranted (clearly I don’t think it is based on my word choice) for national security or job preservation or whatever. The rest of it is spot on.

  7. While I think that dispensations for foreign- built ships–built by allies, NOT China or other unfriendly countries–may be acceptable, the requirement that they be US-flagged, crewed & owned must be mandatory.

    The US is letting its merchant navy shrivel, and that’s foolhardy.

    Whilst on this subject, cruise ship companies–many of which are US-owned–ought to be required to US-flag and crew their vessels, or have their US port visits restricted to once or twice annually to each port.

  8. Do your homework K. Biggar! The tanker was replaced by the newer tanker which is much more Eco friendly. Hawaii’s environment is actually more safer now with this new ship.

  9. What a dumb story, the public needs 38 year old tankers to go out service. There is an ample supply of replacement vessels under the US flag.

  10. Just more nationalistic pablum for the ignorant masses far too mentally lazy to ever engage in any type of critical thinking… think for yourself. Don’t vote until you do.

  11. The most fun job I had was working on Norwegian merchant ships in the 70’s and 80’s. At the time Norway’s shipping fleet was many times larger than the US. Not bad for a country of only 4 million citizens.

  12. Cheap, cheap. I believe that’s the call of the doom bird for America industry.
    The cost for Americans has never been cheap, just look at who supported the world before, during and after WWII.
    Lend/lease for materials and machinery from America saved the world from Nazi’s and their new world order.
    Cheap, cheap should never be the call America should support as we’ll find ourselves without the ability to manufacture basic goods for our security and needs.

  13. Thank you Capt. Enos!!! To all who call for an end to the Jones Act saying it’s un-American and want cheaper foreign made goods. I say why not go all the way and just start with a foreign made government and see how that works out for you.

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