New international maritime cabotage study released
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, September 27, 2018
The maritime blog gCaptain.com published on September 26, 2018, the news article, “New Report Details Cabotage Laws from Around the World,” reporting the release of a new study of maritime cabotage laws worldwide. In the United States, maritime cabotage is popularly known as the Jones Act and formally in American jurisprudence as the “coastwise laws of the U.S.”
The report, “Cabotage Laws of the World,” is the outcome of a an international survey of national maritime cabotage regimes. The report states the survey was conducted with the assistance of professional law firms in each of the states where inquiries were made. The study was commissioned by the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) in 2016 and conducted by the Seafarers Rights International (SRI) who also authored the report.
These kinds of studies covering the various national maritime cabotage regimes around the world are important in the debate over Jones Act cabotage. Those Americans who are supportive of Jones Act cabotage and those who believe reform is needed both reference the various national regimes internationally to support their positions. However, comprehensive studies of this kind are rare.
gCaptain is said to have the largest audience of any maritime blog in the world. It’s headquartered in Los Osos, California, founded in 2007, and a trademark of Unofficial Networks LLC, a ski and snowboard media company. Editorially, gCaptain is typically supportive of Jones Act cabotage including the domestic ship build requirement.
The ITF is a global federation of transport workers' trade unions, founded in 1896 and headquartered in London, UK. As of June 2018, the ITF had 658 member organizations in 146 countries, representing a combined affiliated membership of 20.2 million workers. The ITF has been granted consultive status as a non-governmental organization (NGO) with the International Maritime Organization (IMO), a specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for regulating international shipping.
The ITF is a strong supporter of maritime cabotage worldwide as it relates to the national flag and crewing requirements for vessels in domestic cabotage trades, but does not support national ship build requirements.
The report makes several references to, and characterizes as the last comprehensive review of international maritime cabotage, the report, “By the Capes Around the World: A Summary of World Cabotage Practices,” issued in 1991 by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), 27 years ago.
That MARAD report, issued in the form of a summary, was based on a worldwide survey with the results published in a hardcover book, “A Survey of World Cabotage Laws: Summary of Responses from Countries,” which is no longer available. The MARAD survey covered 56 countries and set several conditions including limiting the survey to countries with a national flag fleet of a minimum of 50 oceangoing vessels of 1,000 deadweight tons or more.
The instant 2018 ITF / SRI study considered the 193 member states of the United Nations and found 140 states with the geographic characteristics necessary to have a cabotage trade as its generally understood. That excluded 53 countries without the necessary geographic characteristics. They further found that 91 states have the necessary geography and some form of cabotage regulation, and 49 countries that have cabotage facilitating geography but do not impose cabotage restrictions on their domestic maritime trade.
The ITF / SRI 2018 report contains a good history of maritime cabotage, description of the derivation and early use of the word cabotage, listing of the world’s cabotage laws on a country by country basis, and list of countries with and without cabotage. However, unlike the 1991 MARAD report, the 2018 ITF / SRI report does not make a comparison of the key aspects of different cabotage regimes on a country by country basis.
The ITF / SRI report’s executive summary (pages 10 & 11) reaches several general conclusions that indicate the complexity, diversity and changing nature of national cabotage regimes around the world, to which it stated in part as follows:
There is no single definition of cabotage that is accepted as binding on all states under international law. Regional and national definitions vary widely.
In national laws, there is a rich variety of approaches taken by states regarding virtually every aspect of cabotage, and there is a great diversity in the interpretation, administration and enforcement of cabotage.
A state’s policies and laws may evolve and are subject to change. The list of states with cabotage is neither fixed nor closed. The list of states is open to different reasonable interpretations but a majority of states with cabotage will remain.
In contrast, gCaptain choose to emphasize those aspects of the 2018 ITF / SRI report that support their pro-Jones Act cabotage position and included an affirmative quotation from the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), an industry trade association of Jones Act companies and unions.
The report published today, titled Cabotage Laws of the World, has identified for the first time ninety-one member states of the United Nations that have cabotage laws restricting foreign activity in their domestic coastal trades. It also describes the history of maritime cabotage and traces a number of early rudimentary legal principles, as well as sets out examples of the many different definitions of cabotage that exist today at the national, regional and international levels. The report also highlights examples of the restrictions of foreign activity and waivers in domestic coastal trades.
The ITF and its affiliates have been campaigning globally to underline the importance of national cabotage laws and the value of having domestic jobs in national waters, as well as domestic employment conditions for foreign seafarers in cases where national seafarers are not available.
According to the report, cabotage laws are commonplace and geared towards protecting local shipping industries, ensuring the retention of skilled maritime workers and preservation of maritime knowledge and technology, promoting safety and bolstering national security.
In the United States, cabotage laws that govern the transportation of goods and people between domestic ports are commonly referred to as the “Jones Act,” an essential maritime law that requires movements of goods and people be on vessels that are U.S.-flagged, U.S.-crewed, U.S.-built and U.S.-owned. This comprehensive study of UN members’ maritime policies and cabotage requirements can further inform policymaking in a fact-based manner.
“The United States is, and always has been, a maritime nation. From the very founding of our country, the American maritime industry has served a critical role in maintaining our national, homeland and economic security,” said Matt Woodruff, Chairman of the American Maritime Partnership. “For policymakers that work to promote a strong and vibrant economy and national security leaders charged with protecting the U.S. security posture, this comprehensive study reinforces the importance of cabotage laws – like the Jones Act – and the historical legislative actions taken to support maritime industries across the globe, including in nations like Russia, China and South Korea.”