What is the Jones Act?
The Jones Act was an important piece of United States legislation passed in 1920. It supported the American Merchant Marine, while also providing additional protections for sailors and ship's crew. Several clauses in the act set a precedent, since they went above and beyond similar protective clauses under international maritime law. This law and the benefits it provides are extremely complex, and mariners who are eligible for claims under it should always consult an experienced attorney.
Officially titled the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, this legislation came to be best known for Senator Wesley Jones, who sponsored it. The act was passed in response to concerns about the health of the Merchant Marine, and to establish protections for sailors. Prior to its passage, sailors who were injured on the job had few options for recovering damages or getting assistance; recognizing the inherent danger of working at sea and the value of trained seamen, the law established a system of benefits for sailors.
Two parts of the Jones Act are of particular historical importance. The first heavily promoted American built, owned, and staffed ships. This was accomplished by restricting shipping and passenger trade within the United States to American owned or American flagged ships, and stipulated that 75% of a ship's crew must consist of American citizens. In addition, the use of foreign parts and labor in ship construction and repair was also heavily restricted. This section of the act was intended to create a strong, well staffed Merchant Marine that could ably serve the United States during both peace and war.
The second important section of the act created benefits for sailors that are extremely far reaching. Any sailor who is injured at sea is entitled to maintenance and cure, meaning that the sailor's employer must pay him or her a daily stipend and provide medical care to treat the injury. In addition, sailors can also sue for damages if their injuries were caused by negligence on the part of the ship's owners or other crew members, or if they sailed on unseaworthy vessels. These damages include death benefits, in the event that a sailor is killed on the job.
Anyone who spends at least 30% of his or her time in active service on a Merchant Marine vessel can qualify for Jones Act benefits. This includes all staff on board ship, from the captain on down. The benefits provided by the law can be significantly higher than benefits for workers on land, if a skilled attorney is involved.
@anon158758: You can take that cruise because we did. The ship goes from Miami to Cartagena, Columbia, which is the "distant foreign port" as specified in the Jones act -- unless the ship does not go to Cartagena any longer. We did this 29 day cruise from Miami to Seattle and the Jones Act did not apply. Your agent is wrong.
Read about the Jones Act from the true story "Warning for Seamen - Justice at Sea." In a federal court in Miami, in the case Colak vs Radisson Seven Seas Cruises, the company refused to pay maintenance. The best maritime lawyer got a warrant to arrest and sell the cruise ship because of injured seamen.
I work in Hawaii on day boats (we do snorkel trips to Molokini) less than 100 tons and less than 150 passengers. The crew are told they have to complete eight hours and potentially more than eight hours each day on the vessel to qualify for a full day's pay because of the Jones Act (if the day is longer due to weather or mechanical failures, etc., the shift could be more than eight hours).
From having read the act, I find no support for this and would like to know if readers can confirm with references as to the legitimacy of this claim by the owners of the vessels (a privately owned company).
In Alaska, the Jones Act is a serious economic barrier in that it increases costs for virtually everything shipped to the state and makes exports to the lower 48 uncompetitive.
Resource exports from the state are competitive being shipped to foreign ports in Asia, but could also go to the lower 48 if the foreign carriers were allowed to do so. The exception is oil. The export of Alaska oil to foreign ports was prohibited in 1977 under the Alaska Pipeline enabling legislation, the consequence being a $10 discount for Alaska crude compared to the world price for 30 or so years and the loss of billions in profits and royalties.
It's time to repeal the Jones Act, a relic of another era.
I can't believe people would cut the throats of American seamen by opposing the Jones Act. Without the Jones Act, all maritime employment for U.S. citizens will vanish. All travel and shipping will be outsourced. All injured workers will be at the mercy of there employers with no guidelines for care. I am sorry for your inconvenience with your travel plans.
The Jones Act has prohibited the Metlakatla Indian Community, in the southernmost tip of Southeast Alaska from shipping any products from their rock quarry because of the Jones Act.
This rock quarry has potential customers in the Pacific Northwest states. Since the Metlakatla Indian Community is a friendly tribe and its neighbors are friendly and the customers want rock quarry products, why not make an exception to the rule of the Jones Act, since it was created in the early 1900s and for better commerce for the tribes, make an exception to the rule. After all, the president is promoting creation of jobs!
It's time to write you US senators and US Representatives asking that they amend the Jones Act. Protecting sailors is one thing but using the law to restrict cruise passenger travel is another. It should not be necessary to go to Mexico just to make a cruise from LA to Hawaii fit within the law of the Jones Act. Start writing today, change can occur!
I began this thread as Post #1 and have read all posts since. When I read the last post by anon171716, I can't understand how it relates to real cruises in today's World, and would be delighted to see a list of cruise ships that would meet the specifications outlined. I expect there is not one major ship. (Perhaps tour boats on the Great Lakes would qualify.)
The real story is this. The act, passed in 1920, is over 90 years old. Cruise ships should not have to refuse people who want to book logical travel plans. The portions of the act that frustrate cruise ship passengers should be revised. Like much legislation, portions of this act relating to cruise ships are way past their "best before" date.
Congress could easily pass a revision to this legislation that would provide logical exemptions to accommodate today's need of cruise ship passengers. This could be done in a way so as not to reduce the protections for the merchant marine in general.
Legislation is not updated on a regular basis so "crazy" implications continue over the years. It seems that the "sport" of partisan fighting in legislature is always more fun than the mundane tasks of ensuring that the Acts and Regulations of the land are systematically updated to serve the needs of the population.
The Jones Act affects any voyage starting and ending in the US on a vessel that is not owned by a US company, built and repaired in the US, and staffed by US citizens.
The problem I see with all the cruise stories stems from the fact that the ships are not US flagged and the fact that the passenger would board the ship on US soil and depart on US soil.
There are two options to avoid this type of situation. First, ensure that one port is outside of the US, or second, ensure that the ship is a US flagged ship, built and repaired in the US and staffed by US citizens.
I'm dumbfounded. I had never heard of the Jones Act. We booked a cruise back to back, which the "specialist" said the cruise lines encourage.
Leave Ft. Lauderdale to Montreal. Second cruise: Montreal to Boston. Booked a month ago. At the same time, we also booked plane fare from Boston home. The Florida cruise line just called me tonight and said our back to back cruises violated the Jones Act and we had to cancel one. Where does that leave us with airfare, etc.? She couldn't explain it either.
I have no idea how this has anything to do with the Merchant Marine or customs. Both of us are American citizens. Wish someone could really explain this. --Really confused and ticked off.
I was just on the phone with NCL (Norwegian Cruise Lines) and was told that I "would be breaking the law" if I chose to sail from Miami to L.A. on the Norwegian Pearl, and then continue on to Vancouver on the same ship. Two actual separate cruises, and the person quoted "The Jones Act". Alrighty then, I guess I won't be sailing with Norwegian after all. Their loss, not ours!
I am also wondering why a cruise can start in Vancouver, BC and end in Seattle not violate the Jones Act and yet when I asked to join a cruise in Florida and it ends in Baltimore, that cannot be done because it violates a closed loop provision of the Jones Act.
Why do I have the feeling the cruise lines are using this act when it suits them? A shame really. I was willing to pay for the entire cruise for a cabin that is undoubtedly empty now.
We just returned from a Canada/NE cruise today, on RCCL's ship, Jewel. My husband had back fusion a few months back and on the first port day, Portland, he was in a lot of pain. I went to the guest relations desk and asked if we could leave the ship in Portland and go home.
We live an hour north of Portland and our vehicle was in the bus parking lot. We were told we would have to pay a $300 fine according to the Jones Act! I said my husband was in pain, and we were just asking to leave the ship, no refunds, period. I said what if he was in critical condition and had to be hospitalized, she said the same thing, even if he was dead and I had to leave with his body.
This is absolutely ridiculous! We continued our cruise, then got the norovirus and were sick for three days and confined to our cabin. After almost 20 years of cruising, never again! Maine is too beautiful to ever leave.
Just returned from a seven-day New England/Canada cruise. There were to be 10 of us. We arrived in Boston a day prior to the ship sailing. The remaining eight of our group flew in on cruise day. Their plane had mechanical problems and did not arrive at the port in Boston until too late to board. They could see the ship, just could not get on it. They were told they could not get on in Portland due to the Jones Act.
Don't see what Merchant Marines has to do with this! They had all paperwork, passports, etc., plus, our travel specialist, who obviously is not very specialized, told them if they had problems arriving in time, they could drive up to Portland and join the cruise at that point. Not so!
This request was denied due to the Jones Act. Same for Bar Harbor, ME. Could not join cruise in Saint John, New Brunswick because they do not have a customs agent there. Their choice: lose everything or pay to fly to Halifax and join the cruise on Thursday! We arrived back in Boston on Saturday!
What a joke to even suggest such an option. Of course, neither the airline - United -, the cruise line, Royal Caribbean, or the travel specialist, The Cruise Web (Arthur) are willing to accept responsibility. If we weren't all told we could join the cruise in Portland, everyone would have flown in a day early, not just us (we wanted to see Boston).
Very frustrating to say the least!
I am fairly sure that all people wish to protect the safety of our seaman as well as American business. Perhaps though, it is time to redo the Jones Act and make it current with issues we face today.
Aside from the mess in the Gulf, I live in a city that brings in a dozen or so cruise ships each week. By law, we have to stop in a foreign port, which is easy as Canada is a few miles to the north. But it is a waste of tourist money since we can drive there any day.
Just last week we had a woman and her wheelchair bound 90 year old mom miss the ship. They got lost in the Emerald City. Things happen. They were told they could rejoin the ship in Ketchikan.
More than $1000 later (airfare and two hotels) they joined us. Then were told due to the Jones act they had to get off of the ship in Victoria and could not sail on to Seattle. Catch 22: On a closed looped cruise one can get by with a driver's license and birth certificate.
If she got off in Victoria she would no longer be on a closed looped cruise and would require a passport, which she did not have. She opted to get off in Seattle and pay the $300 per person fine, and risk arrest. They were not detained, but this is an unnecessary cost. She is not a Merchant Marine.
Problem #2: We made this trip together, 50 people, to celebrate our organization's 100th birthday. To honor it, we chose to do a service project. We brought $1000 worth of school supplies to an Alaskan school. After we departed, we learned that it was not legal to leave anything in the port. I am thankful for the customs agent who filled out the forms and walked us in and allowed us to leave everything. Possibly not a legal act, but he will be forever remembered for helping us.
The portion of the Jones Act that deals with the treatment of crew members who are injured is likely the source of concern with BP. BP must absorb all of the costs of the oil spill cleanup.
Do they want to be held hostage to the requirement of the Act that stipulates how injured foreign employees, on foreign vessels, captained by foreign persons, will be granted the same benefits as Americans?
If I were in charge of an expensive cleanup I would not want to trust in any help that I had not checked out thoroughly. The idea that ships from enemy countries staffed with employees that hold no friendship to America are suddenly offered access to our waters and shoreline doesn't fill me with glee.
Who will provide the medical and financial support to those claiming injuries? The loaner units are not required to provide the same sea worthy vessels, training, security and command structure as American ships.
Injuries acquired during work or off time, or caused by another employee of the unit, or caused because the unit is caught in unseaworthy conditions are all covered by the Act. Will BP pay? Or will we the taxpayers pay?
Heritage, the conservative group that has lead the fight to undo the Jones Act is priding itself for attacking the Jones Act as the reason Obama won't accept all the offers made by foreign countries. It is not about allowing foreigners into American waters. It isn't about the unions.
Complications are revealed only to thinkers who really analyze a well researched fount of information. That is not what Heritage does. Its "Think Tank" went dry years ago. It may tc limit has helped solve the "oil spill problem", but I don't agree.
But heck! Global big business has outsourced everything else. Might as well just open up all our ports to the Stans and Imams and India and let them take the oil, the jobs, the rights and all the rest of it. They will get it anyhow. Because we Americans just can't figure how to stand with one another anymore.
And those fighting words that fill our news are so great at distracting us and keeping us from standing together. As Pogo put it, "We have met the enemy and it is still you and me." Anon
There is a reason this has gone on so long!
When the Gulf Coast states are all covered in oil - Obama can then say "See people, I told you we need to get away from oil drilling! Let's pass cap and trade and cut back on our oil use" Yep, this plays right into his hands! The worse it gets on the coasts the better it is for Obama and co.
How many of the vessels now onsite working to clean up the spill are foreign? The Q4000, the Express, both drilling rigs -- and the list goes on. And how many of the crews aboard these vessels are foreigners? Maybe the Jones act should be expanded and require all workers aboard, working in US waters, be US citizens. A few of us could use a job a right now.
I'm afraid I have to comment here.
Davis: "The "government" has no oil extracting equipment, personnel, nor expertise in oil spill recovery."
I quite agree, so step out of the way and let the people who do have the technology and equipment do their job without hindrance.
Most American ingenuity and technology was developed in backyard workshops garages etc before becoming major contributors. That's what we need now. Let all the entrepreneurs share and test their ideas, like Costner.
So the Dutch et al have never tried their technology on a spill of this nature? Really, I cannot think of a better opportunity than this to test and improve and thus benefiting the whole world. We are probably not going to get another opportunity for some time.
As for the Jones Act, guys you are barking up the wrong tree.
Read and carefully study the "other half". It empowers the USL&HW (United States and Longshoreman Harbor Workers Union) to call all the shots on employees working on this spill.
Bush suspended the Act because of the Union. Obama will not suspend the act because of the Union.
We have seen absolutely inexplicable stupid reactions by the Coast Guard to working conditions, etc. for all those employed on the spill. This has all been dictated by the USL&HW.
Imagine the great brush fire disaster in AZ some years ago. We had over 1200 firefighters on the line. Four of them suffered smoke inhalation and were airlifted out by helicopter. Were all firefighters recalled while we considered 'our options'? Of course not; we had a fire to fight.
In this case we have a 'gusher' to fight and the Union needs to step out of the way.
Anon 92123 has posted one of the most lucid and meaningful contributions to this discussion. However, he/she somehow missed the fact that the culpable parties in this fiasco did have the required "contingency plans" in place, but they were unrealistic, unworkable and incomplete. Therefore, previous administrations and their so-called "watch dog" agencies are seriously blameworthy also. --dddavis in PA
Cabotage laws exist in every country. In the U.S., these laws prohibit foreign airlines from carrying domestic passengers to/from domestic airports, and from carrying cargo to/from domestic ports. Our laws are no different from every other country protecting their domestic economic activities.
If we don't have Cabotage laws, who will require that shipping companies to abide by our environmental laws, hire American citizens to run the ships, pay taxes, provide consistent service on the Mississippi, the Great Lakes, to/from Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico and have vessels available to support the war efforts of World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? Who will carry the cargo!
It never ceases to amaze me how little politicians know about a particular issue, but rush to politicize the issue at hand to get their faces in the public view (McCain!)
If the drilling vessels in the Gulf were part of the Cabotage laws, or the Jones Act, we would not be in the situation we are in today. They would have been required to have contingency plans on file to deal with everything that could have been gone wrong and we would not be wondering from day to day how to deal with the situation at hand. Shame on us and shame on us for thinking foreign interests can do this better.
Have any of you read *all* of the pertinent sections of the Jones Act and its 2006 modifications? I have. You might find it instructive. After all, its intent was (and is) to protect American citizens and American commerce, two principles with which it is hard to argue.
Furthermore, the marvelous barges and ships the Dutch, et al. have offered would be about as helpful as all 32 of Kevin Costner's separators; that is to say, they would be better than nothing but mostly about as effective as a window fan in Hell. None of the offered vessels or technologies have been used with a high degree of effectiveness on a serious spill.
Clean-up of the infamous Kuwaiti mess (Saddam Hussein's sabotage) was an international effort that relied heavily on burn-offs, burials and the absorbency of sand, along with winds, tides and natural forces; and much of the residue is *still* in the Gulf and its environs causing damage to this day.
Few of you bloggers or respondents actually understand the sheer enormity of the BP disaster unless it's compared to something "American" like the Exxon Valdez or Katrina (which is irrelevant except for approximate geography). In your flag-waving egocentricity, you're convinced that everything is bigger and better in America, including its disasters. Do a little research on other oil spills and environmental disasters and line up some fact-based information before popping off and revealing your profound ignorance to the whole world.
Also, to cite the Bush administration response to Katrina as a model for action in the BP case is ludicrous. The Bush response to Katrina is universally recognized as a colossal failure that was a disaster in its own right, which largely compounded the Katrina tragedy. Why do you think Republicans in the last federal election cycle tried to keep the Bush name and team at arms length while campaigning? Those who were irrevocably besmirched with Bush dirt were soundly trounced; hence, the Obama administration is in place now.
Finally, why do many people (especially biased tea partiers, neocons, and other government haters) cry for the "government” to "Do something"? After all, this spill is a private mess caused by private corporations and their private contractors. Businesses in the private sector are the darlings of the anti-government, anti-union, anti-everything conservatives (because it's easier to be against everything than to be for something). The "government" has no oil extracting equipment, personnel, nor expertise in oil spill recovery. The "government" only wants what is possible and reasonable.
The private entities who are separate from the "government" but responsible for the mess should clean it up and redress economic, social and environmental harm as any responsible party should.
Why are you government haters screaming for government action? Aren't you the ones who think the "government" is incapable of doing anything right?
By the way, I am neither a Democrat nor a member of a nutball fringe group or party, nor a "liberal" in the negative epithet sense of the word. I consider myself a conservative realist and a good student and citizen of my country and my world.--prof.dddavis in PA
Am simply amazed so many people who are well educated (by the writings on this site) have not been keeping up with what has been going on. The Jones Act did not stop the US from accepting outside help for BP's mess. They offered and we accepted! Keep up with the news people.
What you all should be concerned about is the senate. The majority of the (GOP) senators want the US taxpayers to flip the bill for BP's mess. Don't believe me? Check it out yourself.
The Jones Act must stand, however illegal immigrants can enter the US and the government claims they have civil rights. What about the rights of the American people? End and stop the illegals forever.
I`m a little confused about a few people here. about this jones act, i was told by a yacht shipping company that they couldn't ship my seadoos from US to Panama city, Panama (central america) due to the jones act? A little crazy seeing that jones act has to do with sailors getting hurt.
Whether or not the Jones Act was the reason is of no consequence! The 64 Million dollar question is: Why did Obama turn away help from other countries when it's abundantly clear that we needed and still need the help? Even his own party is pissed off that he turned the help away and is taking too long to secure our shores and clean up the mess!
Truth is, there is no reason! Yet still, the blind Obama freaks (the ones who faint and cry when he makes speeches) will make up any story to defend this incompetent and dangerous moron of a president!
Now, I'll tell you the real reason he refused the help. He refused it because he needs the gulf devastated in order to "prove" to foolish Americans that drilling for oil is dangerous and that our only future is in expensive, heavily taxed, underdeveloped energy sources like wind and solar, which we all know wouldn't amount to a fraction of the energy we need! Of course Obama is a Marxist and Marxists don't particularly care for facts, just ideology and power!
Time to wake up people! This man is a bull in a china shop and he needs to go!
Blaming Obama for not rescinding the Jones Act is yet another specious ploy by transnational corporations to destroy the American Economy, it is maritime outsourcing.
The Jones act does not prohibit the use of foreign flag ships in helping out with the oil spill; read the language. It pertains to shipping and passenger transport. These ships will not be engaged in shipping and passenger transport.
And as an example of how specious the reasoning is of those who blame the Jones Act. Remember those oil rigs in the gulf operate within US waters, and they are built in Korea, and registered in places like the Marshall Islands, and the Jones act does not prohibit their use. (I wish that it did, because the Marshall Islands, where Deep Water Horizon was registered, was responsible for safety inspections and monitoring of the vessel, and those oil rigs are vessels.
What I'm seeing is either ignorance, corporate obfuscation, or irrational political agenda's.
On the other hand I have serious, serious complaints about Obama, and all are valid.
Would there be a way the state of Louisianan (or any state) could make an end run around the Jones Act by contracting The Netherlands ship for a certain period of time, making the ship under the control of the state of Louisiana (would this cure the American ownership issue), and keep only 25 percent of the Netherlands ship's crew, curing the requirement for 75 percent of the crew to be American?
And if challenged, we could use the same reason as AZ over border security, i.e., the federal government has failed to do its job! This country is being held hostage by a government that is too paralyzed and too slow to act.
Thank you to the ex- Marine captain for clearing up the purpose of this Act. Before you criticize what is going on, it's good to hear from someone actually in the field to know why it is good or bad.
It seems to me that the jones act is not preventing help from other countries. The act just restricts the movement of merchandise from foreign ships. The only reason Bush suspended it after Katrina was because we had to move oil from one port to another. If this is wrong let me know.
Seems like another example of lawyers getting rich and tax payers, now gulf coast folks getting screwed again. The skimmers from the Netherlands are more efficient so get them here asap.
I am an ex-Merchant Marine Captain and am currently a sales manager for the largest dredge manufacturer in the Western Hemisphere, so let me offer my experience. Here are some facts:
1. It costs more to build a vessel in the US than other countries.
2. The cost of living is higher in the US than in other countries.
3. Other countries pay vessel personnel less than American vessel personnel
4. The Military Sealift Command (MSC), that sealifts needed military equipment into theaters of battle around the word, is made up of US Merchant vessels and staffed by US Merchant seaman.
5. During the war in Iraq, some US Merchant seamen had to come out of retirement in order to have enough personnel to staff the MSC ships.
US vessel owners continuously attempt to reduce operating costs in order to compete with other vessel owners. Since foreign seamen are paid less than US seamen, American vessel owners will hire foreign seamen and put American seamen out of work, thus reducing the level of US seaman personnel. An American seaman cannot support a family in the US on the wages paid to foreign vessel personnel.
If this happens, our Military Sealift capabilities will come to an end, and the American Merchant Marine, and American shipbuilding industries will cease to exist.
What keeps this from happening? The Jones Act.
I just wish Obama would rescind this act temporarily like Bush did during Katrina. He is still doing everything he can to hurt the economy and make us more dependent on the government. If he were to rescind it temporarily, Dutch equipment could be on site in six days and do a much better job than what we are doing now with cleanup.
I would like for someone to defend what he is doing and show me that I am wrong. It would make me feel better.
It is time the Jones Act was repealed and market forces allowed to drive US Shipbuilding and Cabotage operations.
Our merchant marine is a disgrace and I fail to see how the Jones act has accomplished anything significant over the last 40 years except make money for lawyers and give US merchant mariners a welfare environment.
Does the Marine Jones Act apply to crew members in a boat that is full time local in waters of Puerto Rico?
anon42117 - I just attempted to make the same reservations and was told the same thing. It's because of an antiquated law that has never been challenged or changed.
However, the most important fact of the Jones Act, which many Americans don't know, is that it granted Puerto Ricans their U.S. citizenship.
Really? All cruise ship are foreign flagged and staffed? Another injustice by the rich I am going to fight the Jones Act for Americans. Join me. More to come.
Very useful. What exactly does "US-built" ship mean? All construction in US? All materials manufactured in US? Can the design be non-US and all of the materials and labor be US and still qualify as US-built?
I am doing a cruise from Seattle to vancouver via victoria and the same ship when it gets to vancouver goes back to San Diego via victoria. the cruise line is saying I cannot do the second cruise because I will be breaking the Jone's act can you clarify please why.
Can a US flagged private yacht hire a foreign crew?
Can A US flagged charter yacht hire a foreign crew?
How does the rule 75% of the crew must be American Citizens affect private yachts?
I would like know if a cruise ship company is giving me a valid answer to my inquiry.
When I asked them if I could sail to Bermuda from Boston one week, stay in Bermuda for an extra week, and come back to Boston on the same ship on its scheduled trip the following week, they said they were not able to do that because of the Jones Act.
They said that many people ask to do that to Hawaii and perhaps stay 6 weeks between sailing out and sailing back.
Is it true that the Jones Act prevents people from doing this, and if so why is that so ruled when some cases travel by ship would be a lower cost for the individual and for sure should have a smaller greenhouse footprint than travel by air to the few destinations where this would make sense?
I would truly like to know the facts about this. Thanks
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