Biden formalizes Jones Act support in Buy America EO
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, Jan 28, 2021
On Monday, January 25, 2021, President Joseph R Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) strengthening what are known as “Buy America” provisions in federal law and policy. Both Pres. Biden’s Buy America EO and accompanying briefing statement included explicit declarations of his administration’s support for the Jones Act and its inclusion in the policy.
The Jones Act “Buy America” provision generated immediate statements of support from a broad range of domestic maritime (Jones Act) industry leaders.
This development comes on the heels of the Jones Act industry lobby’s success obtaining favorable provisions in The National Defense Appropriation Act for Fiscal Year 2021 (NDAA FY 2021) engrossed on January 1, 2021.
Those NDAA FY 2021 Jones Act provisions included amending the existing coastwise (Jones Act) waiver statute by codifying past practice, which significantly tightened-up the procedures.
It also extended the coastwise (Jones Act) eligibility for three ancient 1970’s-U.S.-built Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) tankers, known as LNG carriers (LNGC), despite their sale in 2019 to foreign owners. This was clearly done to forestall any effort to permit foreign-built LNGCs into domestic service as U.S. registered vessels.
Pres. Biden’s formal “Buy American” EO is entitled “Executive Order on Ensuring the Future Is Made in All of America by All of America’s Workers,” and was signed and issued on January 25, 2021, at the White House.
The formal EO refers to the Jones Act in its Section 2, Definitions, as follows:
(b) “Made in America Laws” means all statutes, regulations, rules, and Executive Orders relating to Federal financial assistance awards or Federal procurement, including those that refer to “Buy America” or “Buy American,” that require, or provide a preference for, the purchase or acquisition of goods, products, or materials produced in the United States, including iron, steel, and manufactured goods offered in the United States. Made in America Laws include laws requiring domestic preference for maritime transport, including the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (Public Law 66-261), also known as the Jones Act.
Concurrent to Pres. Biden’s signing of the “Buy American” EO on January 25, 2021, the White House issued a briefing statement, “President Biden to Sign Executive Order Strengthening Buy American Provisions, Ensuring Future of America is Made in America by All of America’s Workers,” which prominently included a bullet point relating to the Jones Act as follows:
Reiterates the President’s strong support for the Jones Act. The President will continue to be a strong advocate for the Jones Act and its mandate that only U.S.-flag vessels carry cargo between U.S. ports, which supports American production and America’s workers. With the signing of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Jones Act has also been affirmed as an opportunity to invest in America’s workers as we build offshore renewable energy, in line with the President’s goals to build our clean energy future here in America.
Also on January 25, 2021, the national Jones Act industry trade association, the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), issued a press release, “American Maritime Leaders Applaud Biden Administration for Prioritizing Support of the Jones Act in ‘Buy American’ Executive Order.” It noticed the inclusion of the Jones Act in the President’s EO and cited support offered by several other related Jones Act trade associations, unions and companies .
The AMP press release makes several of the usual and exaggerated claims concerning the economic importance of the Jones Act including:
The American Maritime industry employs nearly 650,000 Americans across all U.S. 50 states and territories, and contributes $154 billion to the nation’s economic growth annually.
The AMP press release cited support from 18 different leaders of the domestic maritime / Jones Act industry as follows:
- Mike Roberts, President, American Maritime Partnership (AMP)
- Paul Doell, President, American Maritime Officers (AMO)
- Jennifer Carpenter, President & CEO, The American Waterways Operators (AWO)
- Tom Crowley, chairman & CEO, Crowley Maritime Corporation
- Richard Balzano, CEO, Dredging Contractors of America
- Christopher Smith, President, Florida Maritime Partnership
- John Clemons, President, Great Lakes Maritime Task Force
- Mark W Barka, President, Interlake Maritime Carriers
- Don Marcos, President, International Organization of Masters, Mates & Pilots (MMP)
- David Grzebinski, CEO, Kirby Corporation
- Jim Weekly, President, Lake Carriers’ Association
- Adam Vokac, President, Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association (MEBA)
- Max Cox, Chairman & CEO, Matson Inc.
- George W Pasha IV, Chairman, Pasha Group (including Pasha Hawaii Transport Line LLC)
- Michael Sacco, President, Seafarers’ International Union (SIU)
- Mathew Paxton, President, Shipbuilders’ Council of America (SCA)
- Tim Nolan, President & CEO, TOTE Inc.
- Mark Ruge, President, Wisconsin Domestic Maritime Coalition
It’s clear, based upon the large number of citations the AMP included in their press release, which was issued the same day Pres. Biden signed his “Buy America” EO, there was close coordination with the White House.
Beginning on January 26, 2021, several maritime publications posted news articles based upon the AMP press release including the Workboat magazine, Marine Log magazine and the Offshore Energy website.
All of this clearly indicates the Biden Administration’s strong support for the Jones Act and that domestic maritime reform will be unlikely for the duration of the President’s term,.
LINK: American Maritime Leaders Applaud Biden Administration for Prioritizing Support of the Jones Act in “Buy American” Executive Order