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Sunday, January 13, 2013
Jones Act Hurts Hawaii (Alaska, Guam and Puerto Rico too)
By Panos Prevedouros PhD @ 2:48 PM :: 5181 Views :: Jones Act

JONES ACT Hurts Hawaii (Alaska, Guam and Puerto Rico too)

by Dr Panos Prevedouros, PhD Fix Oahu

Bloomberg indicates that U.S. islands such as Puerto Rico, Guam and Hawaii, along with the state of Alaska, feel the effects of the Jones Act more than most localities. Some of Hawaii’s political and business leaders have long complained that the restrictions mean all goods shipped from the U.S. mainland must go via the two carriers serving the state. By some estimates, Jones Act makes goods in Hawaii 33% more expensive than they could be.

For island territories the Jones Act is counterproductive and indeed hazardous. "Russian Icebreaker to Make History in Alaska" is an example of how the Jones Act endangered a community in Alaska. Even in a critical situation like this, the Russian ice breaker could not load oil from an Alaska port and take it to Nome, Alaska, but it had to backtrack to Korea to get the oil and back to Nome, Alaska.

Both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama resorted to temporary Jones Act waivers so Foreign-Flag crude tankers could transport the government’s crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) to the refineries because no Jones Act tankers were available.  The Bush waiver occurred in September 2005 following Hurricane Katrina and Obama’s from July through September 2010 in response to the loss of Libyan oil on the world market. (The Jones Act is a Critical Energy Issue)

Prophetically in the same March 2012 article Michael Hansen predicted this: "The Jones Act may now result in the closure of Tesoro’s Hawaii refinery."  It happened less than a year later: "Tesoro Corp.’s Hawaii refinery in Kapolei, the largest of the two oil refineries in the state with a capacity of 94,000 barrels a day, is closing its refining operations in April." (PBN, Jan. 8, 2013)

With this introduction in mind, here is a sample of articles asking to ban or modify Jones Act for Alaska, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories:

  • The influential maritime publication Lloyd’s List endorsed an exemption from the U.S. build requirement for Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico. The editorial published on Friday January 4, 2013, was written by Tom Leander, Editor-in-Chief, Asia, Lloyd’s List, based in Hong Kong. Leander writes that "many critics of the Jones Act, including Lloyd’s List, hope that the GAO will provide evidence that can be used to persuade Congress to scuttle the US-built requirement of the Jones Act as it applies to Puerto Rico — and further to Hawaii and Alaska – under a so-called sunset waiver."
  • The Secretary of the U.S. Department Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, issued a Jones Act waiver this morning to allow foreign-flag clean products tankers carry refined petroleum products from domestic coastwise ports to the North East which is suffering from shortages of motor gasoline and diesel fuel due to Hurricane Sandy.  The waiver expires on November 13.
  • Hawaii Shippers Council Outlines Jones Act Reform Proposals: The Council's press release observes that "90 years of Jones Act protection has resulted in the near complete collapse of the U.S. deep draft merchant shipbuilding industry, and continuing that protection for the noncontiguous trades will not save it. The Act has generally failed to achieve its intended goal to nurture the U.S. maritime industry, and commercial deep draft commercial shipbuilding in the United States is all but ended."
  • Honolulu Star-Advertiser's Guard asea on aged craft reveals Coast Guard issues with aging cutters it cannot afford to replace: “The Coast Guard in Hono­lulu faces a dilemma with its two biggest ships, the aging 378-foot cutters Jarvis and Rush, which the service wants to retire but can't because it has no replacements.” 
  • Senator-candiate (at the time) Mazie Hirono provided a container load of untruths to justify her baseless support for the Jones Act: "In Hawaii especially, the maritime industry is an essential economic mover, generating more than $4.7 billion annually into Hawaii’s economy and providing more than $1.1 billion in wages and benefits for our people."
  • Sen. Hirono position is diametrically opposed to Representative Pedro Pierluisi's, Puerto Rico member of the U.S. House of Representatives. “I am pleased that the GAO is actively working on my request to determine, once and for all, the economic impact that the cabotage laws have on Puerto Rico. This study should put an end to all of the speculation that surrounds this subject and, if the study concludes that the Jones Act is having a negative impact on our economy, could provide the basis for potential legislative action in Congress,” said Pierluisi. The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is preparing a report “to provide policymakers with a comprehensive, descriptive summary of information on the Puerto Rican and Caribbean Basin trade markets, and how the Jones Act potentially affects these markets.” 

Endnote: These U.S. territories are exempt from the Jones Act: American Samoa, The U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI) and The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) due to the international treaties associated with their annexation by the U.S.

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