When it comes to maritime law and legal actions, the Jones Act is one of the leading acts that precedes all others within the U.S. waters and ports. Created and instated in 1920, it has been amended multiple times to become an updated act to protect sea trade and work within the United States areas. However, one area of murkiness comes from the Gulf Coast. The Gulf Coast has been a problematic situation for U.S. maritime activities as it is seen as international waters from a global perspective, although being more within the realms of the United States. So, how do the Jones Act and the Gulf Coast/Gulf of Mexico interact?
What the Jones Act Means for the Gulf Coast
The Jones Act has always been the law of the sea within U.S. waters, as it dictates who can and cannot come into the U.S. territories. Specifically, for trade ships and cargo that attempts to come in, stipulations were put into place, such as that ships must wave U.S. flags, have been constructed within the U.S,. and be held and crewed by U.S. citizens. Within the past 40 years, however, an amendment was made that allowed for non-coastwise-qualified vessels and ships to be used during transportation of materials from domestic point to point. This was during the times after wars and tragedies, allowing for certain classified ships to be used as transportation vessels of goods, such as pipelines and pipeline repair materials. As such, it was seen as a bandage to help bring aid to where aid was needed throughout the world, and it has since become a staple line of work for many companies connecting in and out of the U.S.
Recent Attempts at Regulation Change
Recently, in early 2017, there was an amendment proposed that would have changed the way the Jones Act worked, if it had cleared. These proposed changes would have affected non-Jones Act qualified vessels that have been working within the Gulf Coast already, as it would shut out non-U.S. based ships from even operating within the areas of the U.S. waters. Brought forward, it would have had a serious impact on the trade and business lines that companies had throughout the Gulf Coast, with possible positive and negative effects being predicted.
Shut Down the Change
As stated above, the proposed changes would have completely cut out any non-qualified ships and vessels from operating within the U.S. areas. When the amendment to the Jones Act was brought up, it was met with immediate backlash from the national industries, which cited that there were just not enough U.S. based ships to begin operating to the same capacity as of right now. The same was echoed by workplace data, which estimated that, by cutting out said classified ships, the working force within the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf Coast area would be a net negative, and it would just do to harm the industries’ stability. Many believed that the change would actually not be as detrimental as predicted, with many groups, such as OMSA, stating that the industry sectors of the oil and gas areas would not be heavily affected if the changes were to be implemented. However, in the end, both were heard and the former won out, as the proposed changes were knocked down.
In short, the Gulf Coast and the Jones Act have a somewhat interesting relationship. With the amendment to the Act, many non-U.S. based ships and group have set up lines of supply to continue work throughout domestic areas, and losing them now with amendments to completely shut them out would be harmful to the industry sectors. As such, the Jones Act is actually helping many international companies remain within the U.S. areas, and it is helping U.S. based companies reach out to the open waters.
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