Sen. Wicker defends Jones Act in Wall Street Journal letter

(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., the highest-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, wrote a letter to the editor Tuesday in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) in response to a recent WSJ op-ed that criticized the Jones Act.

Wicker defended the Jones Act on the basis of national security, arguing that growth in commercial shipbuilding and growth in the naval battle fleet are historically mutually reinforcing. He also noted that now is the wrong time to alter the Jones Act, given that China’s shipbuilding capacity continues to increase while the margin of American naval superiority is shrinking.

The full letter follows:

Why the U.S. Maritime Industry Lags China’s
Hint: It isn’t the Jones Act

By Sen. Roger Wicker

Another day, another attack on the Jones Act. Colin Grabow and Scott Lincicome’s “Protectionism Kills U.S. Merchant Shipping” (op-ed, Feb. 26) calls for the law’s repeal.

For hundreds of years, Congress has entrusted domestic maritime commerce to American companies, ships and mariners for a simple reason: It works.

The law helps stabilize the nation’s maritime industry. It facilitates some 650,000 jobs across our vast system of shipyards, ports and waterways and adds $150 billion annually to our economy. Ending the policy would hit the wallets of skilled American workers.

Opponents of the law value our economy and security, but their proposals risk both. We should dispense with the idea that repealing the Jones Act would save Americans money. Even if we allowed foreign vessels into our domestic sea trade, they would still sail under our wage, immigration and trade fees. These costs would get passed on to consumers.

Critics rightly recognize our diminished shipbuilding capacity, but that isn’t the fault of the Jones Act. Nor would repealing it reignite freedom’s forge. It would weaken our maritime workforce when we need it most.

Naval strategists have noted that American sea power creates a self-reinforcing system: Growth in commercial shipbuilding facilitates growth in the battle fleet, and vice versa.

This is not a time to stress-test this historical truth. China put 30 warships to sea last year, and it boasts the world’s most merchant vessels. Meanwhile, the U.S. naval fleet shrank, and we now rank 70th in commercial shipping inventory. Repealing the Jones Act would narrow the already shrinking margin of American naval superiority.


By Professional Mariner Staff