The U.S. Domestic Maritime Industry Creates a Livelihood for Many

August 11, 2019

The domestic maritime industry in the U.S. is an important source of jobs, currently creating a livelihood for 650,000 Americans across the country, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report. For instance, the maritime industry supports 13,850 jobs in Ohio and produces $3.2 billion for the local economy.

The Jones Act

The Jones Act is a federal law established to regulate maritime commerce in the U.S. It was enacted after World War I by the U.S. Congress in order to stimulate the shipping industry. It requires that only vessels owned, built, crewed and documented in the U.S. transport merchandise between all U.S. ports.

The vessels comprising the Jones Act fleet transport roughly a quarter of the nation’s freight along the internal waterways of the U.S. They carry:

  • Grain, coal, and other cargos via inland rivers.
  • Iron ore, coal, and limestone across the Great Lakes.
  • Refined petroleum products along the east and gulf coasts.
  • Merchandise and construction materials to and from Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other non-continental regions of the U.S.
  • Supplies for offshore operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

On some occasions, the U.S. government has granted temporary waivers on the requirements of the Jones Act. This is typically done when a natural disaster affects an area and more ships are needed to legally supply goods to it. There are opponents of the Jones Act who believe that it needs to be permanently repealed. They state that repeal would lead to decreased shipping costs and lower prices. Jones Act waivers following recent hurricanes has also been blamed for further complicating and slowing recovery aid.

Maritime Jobs Creator 

The Jones Act creates many jobs in the maritime industry, ranging from captains on ships to longshoremen at ports, and even truck drivers who deliver goods on land. Many jobs in the shipbuilding industry are directly supported by the construction of Jones Act ships.

Employees in the maritime industry build and maintain ships for both commercial and governmental clients. They crew vessels moving stone, coal, iron ore, and steel needed for U.S. manufacturing, energy production, and construction.

Indirect Jobs

Apart from the direct jobs in the maritime industry, it also supports indirect jobs elsewhere in the economy. The maritime industry is supported by many other industries, such as induction motor manufacturers that supply three-phase induction motors for use on such ships. Because their construction is simple yet robust and they offer high reliability in the sea environment, induction motors are used in many systems on ships, including seawater pumps, cranes, and propulsion equipment.

The Size and Scope of the Industry

The size and scope of the American maritime industry are staggering. For example, it moves more than one billion-plus tons of cargo annually and provides 74,000 jobs at shipyards and on vessels alone.

The Jones Act has many proponents who regard it as a significant contributor to the national economy and national security. It supports the maritime industry which many American citizens rely on for their livelihood, both directly and indirectly.