The Jones Act is a maritime law that is often controversial with those in the industry with interests in the industry. In addition, many people do not understand the history of this act, which can lead to confusion about its application.
According to the CATO Institute, the Jones Act is part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.
The original intention
The original idea behind this act as explained in Congress was to ensure U.S. shipbuilding capacity and that the U.S. would have an adequate number of merchant mariners available during times of extreme need, such as emergencies and war.
The act helps to reach those objectives through restricting domestic shipping to vessels that are built, owned, flagged and staffed in the U.S. only. It helps to keep away foreign competition.
The reason for the act was part of an ongoing fight for the U.S. to keep shipping internal and to prevent foreign nations from taking work from U.S. vessels. At the time, foreign ships offered cheaper options, but to keep the U.S. fleet on track and to avoid it diminishing due to no work, the act set boundaries and gave all the work to U.S. ships only.
The Jones Act also served another goal of the time. At the time of passing, the country was in the middle of prohibition. A&E Television Networks, LLC. explains that part of the goal of those who passed this act wanted to use it to further limit access to alcohol. Shipments of alcohol were coming in from foreign countries, making it difficult to keep it out of circulation in the country.