US Congress introduces cabotage bill to boost shipbuilding

Bi-partisan legislation was introduced to Congress on Tuesday, a bill with the aim of requiring that quotas of vessels carrying US crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) should be US-built and US-flagged.

Republican senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi and Democratic representative John Garamendi from California are the joint sponsors of the ‘Energizing American Shipbuilding Act’, a piece of legislation that could provide a significant prop in the America First era to the Jones Act.

The new bill proposes that 10% of US crude exports should be carried by US ships after 2032 and 15% of US LNG exports after 2040.

The bill’s backers say their legislation is needed as an urgent corrective to years of neglect of the maritime industry, to the point where America is dozens of merchant ships and 1,800 mariners shy of what would be needed to guarantee sealift support in a crisis.

They also want to boost US shipbuilding and jobs in the maritime sector.

Such cabotage restrictions as proposed in the bill are more usually applied to coastal routes and services or intra-national ones. They are rarer for deepsea international shipping.

The Jones Act, promulgated in 1920, requires all maritime commerce between US ports to be carried on ships built, crewed and owned by Americans.

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.


  1. This is absurd the US cannot build large tankers, container ships or other deep ocean ships at prices that are competitive. In fact as most of the equipment including engines have to be imported and there are no dry-docks, except in San Diego, in which the ships could be built. Furthermore the requirement for the ships to be US Flag employing US crews just adds to the operating costs.
    The Jones Act should abandon “must build in the USA” as it has meant that the US commercial fleet is the oldest in the maritime world with some ships being more than 40 years old using steam turbine engines.

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