Jones Act

Politically Opportunistic Attempts to Gut U.S. Shipping Laws Jeopardize National Security and the Economy

New efforts to repeal the Jones Act could put national security in jeopardy

Multicolored sea containers, laid flat with stacks for storage and transportation

Multicolored sea containers, laid flat with stacks for storage and transportation by ships

Americans should be alarmed by recent calls for repeal of the Jones Act, a 1920 law requiring that merchant vessels navigating between U.S. ports must be manufactured and flagged in the U.S., owned and operated by American companies, and crewed by American citizens. Passed in the wake of World War I to ensure that the United States maintained a vital sea transport capacity in the event of future conflict, the law has been vital to U.S. national security and economic strength for almost 100 years.

Today, the Jones Act strengthens homeland security by reducing the risks of weapons of mass destruction infiltration, terrorism, crime, and illegal immigration associated with inadequately screened foreign crews operating on America’s 25,000 miles of inland waterways and 95,000 miles of shoreline.  On the economic front, the statute preserves a shipbuilding and ship repair industrial base that ensures the United States has adequate sealift capabilities under direct national control to support recovery efforts during national emergencies like Hurricane Maria, supports almost 500,000 jobs, and generates nearly $100 billion in output annually.

Critics calling for repeal of the Jones Act advance several unsound arguments that not only fail to acknowledge these substantial national security, disaster recovery, and economic benefits, but also expose the country to grave new threats.

The most potentially catastrophic danger is increasing the threat of attack from weaponized shipping containers.  U.S. policy has already recklessly endangered the nation in this regard by allowing Gulftainer, a UAE-based firm with ties to the Russian state-owned exporter of Moscow’s Club-K shipping container cruise missile system, to assume control of a 35-year lease to operate the strategic Port Canaveral, Florida marine terminal without appropriate security review.

Unbelievably, Gulftainer executive Dr. Jafar Dhia Jafar, brother of the firm’s co-owner, is Saddam Hussein’s former top nuclear weapons scientist and worked closely with the Russian government to design a miniature “beach ball” nuclear warhead for the Club-K system. Dr. Jafar has also collaborated with the governments of Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and Syria on weapons of mass destruction proliferation activities and was on the U.S. military’s high-value target list during the Iraq War.

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This article was first published in the Daily Caller.

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