Classifieds | Place a class ad | PDF Edition | Home Delivery
By ART JOHNSON
I believe the Jones Act is necessary for several reasons and if it is repealed, it will be detrimental, not only to the maritime industry and those who work in it, but it will harm the country's ability to build ships, both Merchant Marine and Navy and to carry cargo to our forces overseas in time of national emergency.
Ship building requires many skills and it is foolish to think we can have foreign yards building our ships and then if necessary find enough skilled workers to build them in the USA. It would be beyond foolish to build out military vessels in foreign yards. The same goes for having foreign ships and foreign crews carrying our country's cargoes. Where will we find trained seamen in time of need?
Sen. John McCain is frequently mentioned, because he is in favor of repealing the Jones Act, but it should be noted that he flew airplanes in the Navy and that is a whole lot different than being part of operating ships and all that goes with it. It should also be noted that our politicians have little to say about maintaining a healthy U.S. Merchant Marine, because only a small number of our citizens even know what the Merchant Marine is and very likely, even some of our politicians have only a slight knowledge of this vital industry. They can't get many votes promoting something that people know little about, let alone understanding the importance of the maritime industry.
When I sailed as a deck officer in offshore cargo ships in the ‘60s, the company I worked for had over 50 ships and like so many companies that operated cargo ships, they either went out of business or they put their ships under foreign flags to avoid the U.S. taxes, stiffer regulations and the higher cost of labor. We have seen this sort of thing happening with many industries and our country is hurt by loss of jobs and a skilled labor force. When it affects national defense, such as the loss of an ocean-going Merchant Marine and a robust ship building industry, then our country's leaders need to do the right thing, even if it doesn't help them politically. The Merchant Marine has a critical role to play in time of war and we cannot depend on foreign flag vessels to fill that role.
Most of us living in Southeast Alaska are aware that none of the large cruise ships that cruise our waters are American-flag vessels. Probably most people don't know or care that at one time our country had American-flagged passenger ships and thousands of cargo ships under the American flag. The SS United States was one of the finest passenger ships afloat and then cheap foreign labor put her and most other American-flag passenger ships out of business. Even the cargo ships that carry our timber to foreign countries are foreign flag.
For too many years our country's leaders have ignored the need for a strong maritime industry, and will that change before we have given it all away to foreign interests?
Art Johnson of Ketchikan has more than 40 years of sailing experince on board ships of many types on many oceans, including many years on the beautiful waters between Seattle and Skagway.