It’s all Kumbaya at Pro-Jones Act U.S. House hearing
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, January 19, 2018
The Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, the U.S. House of Representatives, held on Wednesday, January 17, 2018, a hearing, “The State of the U.S. Flag Maritime Industry,” in the Rayburn House Office Building. This hearing was widely covered in the U.S. maritime press.
The Republican and Democratic members of the Subcommittee are virtually all strong supporters of the Jones Act and typically receive industry backing in turn. The Chairman of the Subcommittee is Duncan D Hunter (R-CA-50) represents San Diego County where the General Dynamics NASSCO shipbuilding yard is located. The ranking member is John Garamendi (D-CA-03) representing areas of Northern California between San Francisco and Sacramento.
All seven of those testifying were pro-Jones Act including two government witnesses and five representatives of the U.S. maritime industry, no critics of the U.S. maritime policy or those who are customers of the industry were called as witnesses. Certainly, no merchant cargo owners – formally known in transportation and law as “shippers” – were invited to this Congressional Jones Act lovefest.
The Marine Log Magazine reported on January 19th regarding the unanimity of the Subcommittee’s support , “Providing a rare interlude of bipartisan accord in Washington, the House Subcommittee . . . . . held a hearing Wednesday . . . . . during which congressional and maritime leaders stressed the importance of the Jones Act."
This is the usual hearing format that passes for “Congressional oversight” of the U.S. maritime industry, which is highly dependent on government assistance and protectionist legislation. Recently, the Subcommittee held very similar hearings on October 3, 2017, and February 25, 2015.
The hearings covered two separate segments of the U.S. flag maritime industry:
(1) the domestic U.S. maritime or Jones Act industry protected by the coastwise laws of the U.S. that prohibit foreign competition; and,
(2) the U.S. flag foreign (or, international) trade fleet that operates in the foreign trade of the U.S. and is subsidized by the Maritime Security Program (MSP) and preference cargo set-a-sides for government impelled cargoes.
The American Shipper Magazine reported on January 19th, ". . . . . it was [Chairman] Hunter who gave perhaps the more forceful remarks, calling opposition to the Jones Act ‘stupid,’ among other things.”
The Magazine also reported Duncan saying, “In order for us to maintain the way of life as we know it, as a nation that’s secure and able to project power - be it Navy power or commercial power - the Jones Act is intrinsic to that. It is the cornerstone of all of it.”
Duncan reportedly concluded his remarks, "The absurdities of some of those in this Congress and in government, to think that you want Korean or Chinese or name your country-made ships, and taking the entire American workforce of making ships and driving them, and getting something from point A to point B in America, it’s stupid, it’s absurd, and KumbayaI hope that we just keep educating and educating, ‘cause that’s what it’s going to take so that people understand what this is and how this is one of the cornerstones of our country’s entire national security apparatus,” he said. “It is the Jones Act, and it is what allows us to project power and be the greatest country in the world,”
Marine Log further reported that the Ranking Member Garamendi in his opening remarks said, "First and foremost, we cannot become complacent in our defense of the Jones Act and our efforts… to raise public awareness of the need for, and the many benefits that flow, from this long-standing maritime policy that has stood for nearly a century."
The seven witnesses were:
- Rear Admiral John Nadeau, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, United States Coast Guard
- Rear Admiral Mark H. Buzby, USN Ret., Administrator, Maritime Administration
- Mr. Matt Woodruff, President, American Maritime Partnership
- Mr. Eric Ebeling, President and Chief Executive Officer, American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier On behalf of USA Maritime
- Mr. Aaron Smith, President and Chief Executive Officer, Offshore Marine Service Association
- Mr. Matthew Paxton, President, Shipbuilders Council of America
- Mr. Bill Van Loo, Secretary Treasurer, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association
A video of the hearings and prepared statements are available on the Subcommittee website.
HSC: Maritime Administrator Buzby interviewed