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McCain challenges Jones Act

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Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who this month becomes chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told journalists in early December that he intends to continue to fight to end the Jones Act and allow greater involvement of foreign shipping interests in domestic maritime operations, according to news reports.

McCain introduced a bill in 2010 to repeal the Jones Act but estimated soon after that he probably only had about 20 votes in the 100 member chamber. But McCain told reporters he believes it is a fight he can one day win.

“It’s one of these things you just propose amendments to bills and encourage hearings and sooner or later the dam breaks,” he said.

McCain estimates that consumers could save about $1 billion annually if the Jones Act was lifted. But U.S. maritime unions, American shipping companies and their supporters in Congress present a united front in opposition to his objective.

“I have to tell you … the power of this maritime lobby is as powerful as anybody or any organization I have run up against in my political career,” he said. “All I can do is appeal to the patron saint of lost causes and keep pressing and pressing and sooner or later you have to succeed.”

The Jones Act Truth Squad, created by the American Maritime Partnership, rejects McCain’s assertions. The American domestic maritime industry supports almost 500,000 jobs that pump nearly $100 billion into the nation’s economy every year, it said.

“The Jones Act enjoys rock solid support from lawmakers in Congress and the Administration because leaders from both sides of the aisle understand this law is vital to America’s national, homeland and economic security,” said Tom Allegretti, Chairman of AMP. “It is troubling that U.S. refiners pushing for changes to the Jones Act as part of the crude oil export debate are putting their vested financial interests over the national and homeland security of our nation. The two issues are not connected. American maritime is flourishing and stronger than ever. In fact, the most modern vessels in the world are being built in record numbers in U.S. shipyards all around the country, the industry is responding to the changing energy market caused by the shale oil revolution, and the U.S. maritime industry is growing as a result. It is an exciting time to be a part of this dynamic industry, and the nation is benefiting from the service we provide.”

Reported in a recent edition of Wheelhouse Weekly, a newsletter of the International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots. It has been reprinted with permission.

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