Washington debates how to make American shipbuilding great again

American politicians this week have been discussing a 21st century update to the Jones Act.

Congressman John Garamendi and senator Roger Wicker have reintroduced the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act. The bipartisan legislation seeks to recapitalise America’s strategic domestic shipbuilding and maritime industries by requiring that increasing percentages of liquefied natural gas and crude oil exports be transported on US-built, flagged, and crewed vessels. Garamendi had first introduced the idea to Congress last year.

The bill would require that vessels built in the US transport 15% of total seaborne LNG exports by 2041 and 10% of total seaborne crude oil exports by 2033.

According to an estimate from the Shipbuilders Council of America, the bill would result in the construction of more than 40 ships: approximately 28 LNG carriers by 2041 and 12 oil tankers by 2033.

“Rising US exports of America’s strategic LNG and crude oil present a unique opportunity to create new middle-class jobs by strengthening our nation’s crucial domestic shipbuilding, advanced manufacturing, and maritime industries—which are key to national security and our ability to project American military power abroad,” Garamendi said on reintroducing the bill. “Our bipartisan bill counters other export countries’ similar requirements, including the Russian-flagged vessel requirement for Arctic oil and natural gas exports announced by the Kremlin in December 2018. American shipyards and mariners are ready for the job, and our bill ensures they are no longer expected to compete against heavily subsidised foreign shipyards in Korea, China, and elsewhere.”

“With the Energizing American Shipbuilding Act, American energy will be transported on American-owned, American-crewed, and American-built ships and the shipbuilding industry will have increased investment in new, state-of-the-art LNG and crude carriers to rival that of China, Russia, India, and other nations that are focusing billions of dollars in shipbuilding capacity,” said Shipbuilders Council of America president Matthew Paxton.

The bill has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce as well as the Committee on Foreign Affairs. It would serve as a big spur to the Jones Act, a piece of legislation that dates back to 1920, which requires goods shipped between US ports to be transported on ships that are built, owned, and operated by US citizens.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.


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