Outlying US lands call again for revision of the Jones Act

San Francisco: US territories Guam and Puerto Rico, plus the non-contiguous states Alaska and Hawaii called again on Tuesday for reform of the Jones Act, arguing it hurts them economically.

Political and business figures from the four territories met online in a Skype forum hosted by the Puerto Rico Senate in the latest episode of ongoing complaints that the act’s restrictions drive up costs for these outlying lands.

The 1920 act mandates use of US-made vessels to deliver cargo on US waters and between US ports. Not only must the ships be constructed in the US but they must be US flagged, US owned, and crewed by US citizens and permanent residents.

Officially known as the Merchant Marine Act, the law was designed to protect home shipbuilders from foreign competition almost a century ago.

Now it’s an anachronism, said several of the Skype participants.

Hawaii lawmakers estimated the Jones Act drives up costs of consumer goods in the state by at least 15% and said that it is a “punitive restriction to the economies of the islands.”

Puerto Rico speakers called it a “wall to economic development” and said that an average family of four there pays $500 more per year for food because of the act.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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