Jones Act of 1920 hinders best response to gulf oil spill in 2010

Friday, June 11th, 2010 By

an oil spill skimmer ship in port

The Jones Act of 1920 was passed to protect U.S. shipping from foreign competition, but is keeping the most advanced clean up ships away from the BP oil spill in 2010. Flickr photo.

The Jones Act, a federal law passed in 1920, is making headlines in 2010 thanks to (what else?) the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico 2010. The Jones Act was passed 90 years ago to give U.S. shipping companies an advantage over the rest of the world in U.S. waters. Today the Jones Act — which requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S. ships that were constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens and crewed by U.S. citizens  — is preventing the rest of the world from helping the U.S. clean up the BP oil spill with state of the art technology. If the Obama administration wasn’t previously aware of the effect the Jones Act is having on the disaster, chances are it is now. Instead of talking about passing a law that amplifies BP oil spill claims, perhaps a simple executive order suspending the Jones Act would be more productive.

Jones Act slows oil spill cleanup

The Jones Act prevented foreign companies from offering the U.S. assistance in the oil spill cleanup soon after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, killed 11 people, sank, blew out the well and started an undersea gusher that has dumped up to 30,000 barrels of oil a day for the past 53 days. The Heritage Foundation reports that within days of the oil spill, several European nations offered the Obama administration ships to assist in the clean-up of the Gulf. A Belgian newspaper, De Standaard, said European firms  working with the U.S. could complete the task in three months, rather than an estimated nine months if done by the U.S. alone. According to De Standaard, no U.S. companies have the ships to accomplish this task is because those ships would cost twice as much to build in the U.S.

Oil clean up ships barred

The Jones Act is preventing the most advanced oil cleanup  ships owned by Belgian, Dutch and Norwegian firms from participating in the oil spill cleanup. Fox News says politics are taking precedent over ensuring the best possible oil spill cleanup effort. Joseph Carafano of the Heritage Foundation suggested to Fox News that the most effective and proven foreign oil cleanup ships remain on the sidelines because of the Obama administration’s close relationship with labor unions. Unions believe that the Jones Act protects American jobs, and those unions use their political clout to pressure lawmakers who would waive the law.

BP oil spill liability

Waiving the Jones Act may do more to blunt the damage of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico than other legal moves being considered. The Wall Street Journal reports that President Obama, talking about BP oil spill liability on Thursday, said Congress must “update the laws to make sure that the people in the Gulf, the fishermen, the hotel owners, families who are dependent for their livelihoods in the Gulf, that they are all made whole.” But the Journal raises the question about whether a law about BP oil spill claims can be passed that focuses directly on a single company. But some law professors and corporate attorneys said creative Justice Department attorneys could use language in the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 to expand BP’s oil spill liability.

Time’s up for The Jones Act

The Jones Act, created to protect jobs in 1920, could be helping the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico eliminate jobs in 2010. People who earn a living in fishing, tourism and even the oil industry are watching their livelihoods being destroyed for years to come. The Heritage Foundation points out there are also private sector jobs not being created in the U.S. since the Jones Act prices U.S. companies out of the competitive global market. If mounting public awareness of the law results in the Jones Act being waived, the BP oil spill may be the catalyst for repealing it altogether.

  • Kerry

    Can anyone verify which country's offers were turned down by the US government because of the Jones Act?

    I think this "fact" is important to know…..

    Please email with info….

    Thank You

    • Sam

      Belgium. Norway, Canada and Mexico to name a few.

  • kimberly

    I hate to ask this… if the jones act leaves a oil spill clause.. then why are the other contrys not allowed to help. actually honestly asking.

  • TryAgain

    The Jones Act already has an exception for oil spill cleanup. Doesn't anybody verify their information before they regurgitate it? Read the actual act.

    55113. Use of foreign documented oil spill response vessels "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, an oil spill response vessel documented under the laws of a foreign country may operate in waters of the United States on an emergency and temporary basis, for the purpose of recovering, transporting,

    and unloading in a United States port oil discharged as a result of an oil spill in or near those waters, if–

    "(1) an adequate number and type of oil spill response vessels documented under the laws of the United States cannot be engaged to recover oil from an oil spill in or near those waters in a timely manner, as determined by the Federal On-Scene Coordinator for a discharge or threat of a discharge of oil; and

    "(2) the foreign country has by its laws accorded to vessels of the United States the same privileges accorded to vessels of the foreign country under this section.

    • Jennifer

      HOAX and amateurism the world can't believe in! Nice to see I was not alone about in my shouting that the President does not need to waive the Jones Act…it waives itself.

      Those education cuts must be working! Not one lawyer or journalist was smart enough to read the Jones Act and realize there is a provision for oil spills to call in the international community.

      • dumb

        here's the problem. the ships don't have the right documents to call itself an oil clean-up. read into it more before you start callng the president stupid.

  • Bob Fiorito

    Obama Could have: Talked to BP CEO that first day to establish their plans to solve the problem and to ask advise on what the Gov. can do to assist, Called for all (Foreign and Domestic) oil Company's engineers and drill experts for their advise and to establish a plan to correct the problem, Ordered all skimmers in the world to skim the escaped oil before reaching land The skimmers could have been circling the spill for at least 40 days already, Any captured oil is oil that doesn't reach land, As a technical person my Idea would be, Instead of using a cap on the pipe to sift oil up, I would be trying to insert a smaller diameter piping with numerous expandable "O" rings after inserting expand "O" rings with warm air and / or water (If freezing is an issue I believe there is "O" ring materials that expand with liquids like petroleum) to attempt to seal and the inner pipe would allow the release of oil and pressure up to the surface and either burn off or collected or both, Just a thought? This emergency is another situation "Emanuel has said before not to lose an emergency" they can use to further their Cap and Trade agenda.

    • father_moray

      The OIL SPILL and resulting disaster is sabotage…the sharria timebomb has exploded…it's going to get much worse…TOO LATE-in-CHIEF is pleased…

  • Rosie

    Fox & Friends misleads on international aid to the Gulf spill (surprise, surprise)
    http://mediamatters.org/research/201006110023

    To sum it up: The Jones Act only regulates ship travel between U.S. ports. Bush waived it after Katrina to move oil from one American port to another. But the Jones act says nothing about bringing in foreign vessels for emergencies so there's no need for a waiver. In fact, they have been bringing in foreign rigs.

    • bill

      The cleanup ships must go from American port to American port to function which is illegal under the Jones Act. Obama can suspend this law but this would cost him union votes.

    • father_moray

      Rosie, it's your Redistributer in Chief sliming America…you voted for this Sharria AzzzMunch…your welfare checks will stop soon.

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