The History of the Jones Act

The History of the Jones Act

The risks of working on a ship are numerous. The crew members on board risk injury if they are not attentive. Fortunately, the Jones Act has been implemented to provide safety and protection to sailors and seamen operating on ships and boats. Personal injury attorneys for the maritime industry are always striving to protect and educate persons who operate on the water about their rights.

The Jones Act

Before the Jones Act, commonly known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, persons who worked aboard ships endured appalling living and working circumstances. On board, accidents and fatalities were prevalent. The sailors had little defense during these catastrophic accidents. The fishing and shipping businesses were not held liable for any carelessness that might have resulted in the injuries, and the injured employees were rarely given compensation. Senator Wesley L. Jones of Washington decided to defend sailors and seamen as a result of this injustice.

Senator Jones pushed to make life and working circumstances for those who worked on these ships better. He started looking for a method to make the vessel owners responsible for the injuries the workers sustained as a result of the harsh working conditions they were subjected to. A ship would be liable for damages if any of its crew members were hurt or killed while it was at sea. This law provided sailors with a means of pursuing claims for harm and wrongdoing stemming from the negligence of their employers. Also, it prompted the ship’s owners to improve working conditions and facilities for the safety of its crew members.

Marine Commerce Boosted

Also promoting sea commerce was the Merchant Marine Act. As a result of the protection of seamen’s rights, a growing number of individuals began working on ships and other vessels. The market has the opportunity to expand by carefully observing the shipments going into and out of US ports and coastal seas.

For everyone who works on ships, the Jones Act was a huge advancement. The severe living and working conditions that once plagued seafarers and sailors have been eliminated by these protection and safety measures.

Most Common Types Of Maritime Injuries

It is time to seek assistance if you have sustained an injury while on the water. A wonderful method to make sure you are protected is to speak with marine personal injury attorneys.

Goals of the Jones Act

  • launched in an effort to rebuild the United States’ post-World War I-depleted maritime shipping sector.
  • Encourage the maritime sector and keep American ships from being constructed elsewhere.
  • provide employment and economic growth. The Jones Act sustains 650,000 employment in the United States and drives $150 billion in annual economic activity.

Jones Act Requirements

  • Ships carrying cargo between two ports in the United States must be owned by U.S. corporations, with more than 75% of the stock being held by U.S. residents.
  • The bulk of a ship’s crew must be Americans.
  • The ships have to be made and registered in the United States.

Jones Act Waivers

  • The Act may be waived in the wake of a natural disaster, such as a storm, to increase the number of ships that can legitimately deliver products to a devastated area.
  • In the “interest of national defense,” the Secretary of Defense may ask for waivers, and there is a different process for non-defense organizations. The Secretary of Homeland Security has final approval power for a waiver in both situations.

Criticism of the Jones Act

Puerto Rico’s economic and financial difficulties have been attributed to the Jones Act, which has a negative impact on trade with the island. The differences between U.S. and foreign-flagged carriers for Puerto Rico “vary from roughly 41% to as high as 62% for bulk cargo and between 29% and 89% for containerized freight,” according to a 2019 analysis. The Act’s additional costs to the island’s economy are estimated to be close to $1.2 billion, or around $374 per citizen.

Only after Hurricane Fiona slammed Puerto Rico in 2022 was the Act’s waiver put into effect. In response to pressure to waive the rule in the face of a fuel shortage to ensure that residents could run generators needed for electricity and the operation of crucial facilities, the Biden administration permitted a non-U.S. flagged ship to transport fuel to Puerto Rico.

The Act’s detractors anticipate that its repeal will lead to lower pricing, reduced transportation costs, and less financial pressure on the government. States that operate navy yards, defense companies, and shipping sectors, as well as longshoremen and other port workers, are among the act’s supporters.

Most Common Types Of Maritime Injuries

The Jones Act garnered media attention in early 2022 because of its probable impact on the U.S.-Russian oil trade. On March 8, the United States prohibited imports of Russian oil and gas in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February.

The U.S. has historically been reliant on imports from Russia, particularly Hawaii, which brings in yearly shipments of Russian crude oil that make up to to 25% of all Russian oil shipments to the country. The Jones Act is criticized for allegedly making it more difficult to transport oil and gas to isolated regions like Hawaii and forcing the state to rely on imports from Russia.

The Bottom Line

The Jones Act is a 1920 law that places restrictions on the shipping of commodities by sea. Any goods that is transported between American ports must do so using American ships and American workers. It was once designed to assist the strategically significant maritime industry, but today is viewed as a prime example of protectionism.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here