US Senator McCain introduces bill to repeal the Jones Act

Senior US Senator John McCain has introduced legislation to repeal the Jones Act, which requires all marine cargo ships travelling between US ports to be American.

The Act, which dates to 1920, mandates that such vessels be US-made, US-flagged and US owned as well as being crewed by US citizens or permanent residents.

McCain, Republican from Arizona and a celebrated veteran of the Vietnam War, is pushing a bill called the Open America’s Waters act of 2017.

He uses anti-protectionist and pro- free trade arguments to support his case, saying: “”I have long advocated the repeal of the Jones Act, an archaic and burdensome law that hinders free trade, stifles the economy, and ultimately harms consumers.

“My legislation would eliminate this regulation, freeing American shippers from the requirement that they act against their own business interests.

“By allowing US shippers to purchase affordable foreign-made carriers, this legislation would reduce shipping costs, make American farmers and businesses more competitive in the global marketplace, and bring down the cost of goods and services for American consumers.”

But supporters of the Jones Act have repeatedly repelled similar attempts at legislation, citing the potential risks it would pose to national security and the damage it would do to employment in the US shipbuilding and merchant marine industries.

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 bill sounds about as bad as NAFTA and Free Trade with China did back on the early 90’s! I have to wonder about McCain, a US veteran, that he is he’ll bent on globalization. President Trump is trying to bring manufacturing back and McCain is promoting the buying of foreign ships.

  2. He is 100% correct! It will increase efficiency enormously . What is left of
    American international shipping? See how many AMERICAN VESSELS are trading
    outside on a commercial basis. American marine activities are mainly involved in
    offshore business where they are free to operate worldwide. The Jones Act is stopping foreign vessel sofar to operate in US waters not allowing competition to the detriment of the
    development of the industry and American seaman working OUTSIDE the USA.
    Rarely an american sailor is employed by non american companies!!!!!

    1. The American Maritime Industry in general, suffers from problems that go far beyond the Jones Act. Is this legislation a form of protectionism? It absolutely is. Just as many other maritime countries around the world have their own form of cabotage laws. I always laugh at those (especially foreigners) that point fingers at our industry and cry foul, for the singular reason they want access to our (limited) coastwise markets in an effort to make more money for themselves.

      Every American mariner will acknowledge the Jones Act has its problems. But I for one believe the solutions are found in restructuring the punitive US tax laws. American corporations cannot compete on a level playing field against foreign corporations that are not being penalized as we are for making a profitable success. Thus, there are a few ‘foreign’ shipping companies that actually have their ownership and/or investors linked to American citizenship. In some cases, foreign shipping businesses are flat out subsidized by their own governments. China is a stunning example.

      Here’s a point often made by foreigners and anti-Jones Act American citizens alike. US labor is too expensive to employ aboard ships. Really? And other western nations are not? Why then, when I go aboard a Japanese “owned” NYK containership, it might have a Japanese Captain and Chief Engineer, but the entire rest of the crew are Filipinos, Indonesians, or better yet, eastern europeans, the lowest of the wage scale these days? The answer? Because even the Japanese officers will tell you, “Our labor costs are too high for the owner.”

      Oh the irony! How about the infamous “Norwegian Cruise Lines” passenger ships? Frequently sailing around the world with just a few officers aboard that are “actually” Norwegians! The vast majority of the crews are low level Filipinos, Indos, eastern europeans, and in Asia markets, Chinese nationals. Then of course, even the Scandinavian offshore energy industry sector employs many ‘foreigners’, eh??

      The US Flag businesses have their challenges, to be sure. But starting out with lowering our corporate tax rate from 30% to near 15% that most foreigners are paying is just a start. There are a host of other specifics that ‘could’ be implemented, if only our incompetent and distracted politicians in Washington DC would wake up from their long drug induced stupor.

      Finally, as an individual that considers myself affiliated with the conservative republican party, I will tell you that SenatorJohn McCain is an idiot that has long lived past his useful career. He does our political party more harm than good. I am a staunch supporter of the American Military. I’ve been a Navy Reservists and appreciate what sacrifice active duty military men/women and their families do each day.

      But John McCain has lived a career under the banner of being a “celebrated military veteran” for far too long. He is an embarrassment to the military community as far as I am concerned. Under his watch our navy shipbuilding program has become a national embarrassment. One staggering failure after another. But most of all, his ranting against the Jones Act demonstrates his utter failure to truly have any idea what role the US flag shipping sector plays in support of our military around the world. What a public embarrassment to hear him speak about the Jones Act! Each time he writes a piece or speaks publicly against the Jones Act, it underscores how truly ignorant this man actually is about his own American Military Fighting Machine, of which he speaks so highly of. Yet he understand so little on how it functions each day.

      John McCain needs to retire before he actually does some harm not only to our industry, but our nation. He already has made himself a national embarrassment. He does NOT help the republican party or Trump’s presidency. McCain brings absolutely nothing to the table of daily political life in America, other than his drooling incoherence.

  3. BAD IDEA!! From a Labor stand point (Where are the Unions on this?) Before the existence of the Jones Act, there was NO protection for SeaMEN. + compensations were decided on the basis of ‘general maritime law’ which meant loop holes were involved. Because of so many loopholes more often than not were deprived on necessary payment. The Jones Act is carefully worded to protect the American Economy, American Labor (Jones Act gives Americans priority to Maritime Jobs & stipulates that 75% of naval workers must be American. It also PROTECTS American Security. It protects internal U.S. economics. At present, It protects ships (both pleasure craft and commercial) against piracy ( If repealed, there would be No vetting process or Security checks on foreign seamen) Think of what a ship in the wrong hands could do as a terror weapon too! John McCain is a trouble maker with too much spare time and an ego seeking headlines. KEEP U.S. autonomy & it’s soil sovereign and SAFE! KEEP THE JONES ACT! The Jones Act works really well.

    1. Indeed. Look at all the ships and crews that have been abandoned by their ‘reputable’ owners hiding under layers of paperwork that purposely create a stealth record of ownership and responsibility. Our entire industry is to blame for playing along and allow these situations to continue.

      The Jones Act creates many protections for American seafarers. Many anti-Jones Act people would point to this sand say “There, THATS why you American mariners are so expensive!” I would respond, “If we didn’t have fly-by-night-shipowners that abandon their crews, don’t pay their crews, don’t provide for repatriation for their crews, and treat them like slaves….then yes, we would not need the Jones Act.”

      But guess what? We do need laws to protect “our” American citizen seafarers because OBVIOUSLY WE STILL DO HAVE SHIPOWNERS IN THE WORLD TODAY THAT DO NOT CARE ABOUT THE HEALTH, SAFETY, AND WELFARE OF THEIR CREWS. If that statement were not true, there would be no abandoned ships right now and crews held as ransom in Africa by pirates. But the truth is, there are still seaman being held in captivity and ships that are pirated every month.

      I often wonder if people even understand their acclaimed hashtag #seafarersmatter this year? Its a hashtag to remind everyone of the status and plight of those working aboard ships all over the world. Being mistreated is one thing. Being treated like slaves is entirely different. It’s incomprehensible to me that “abandoned crews and ships” are even a topic of discussion in 2017?!?!?!

  4. how does that fit in with Trump’s plan to make America great again, the USA will be flooded with Chinese ships and crew.

  5. John McCain will be dead soon. One less idiot trying to fuck with the US Merchant Marine.

  6. This will be great for Puerto Rico since everything is more expensive in the Island and the puertoricans can’t even purchase any goods directly from the Dominican Republic or Cuba.

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