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Has the Jones Act always been enforced?

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2023 | Jones Act |

The Jones Act is a maritime law concerning commerce on United States waterways. It requires shipping between U.S. sports to be conducted by ships and crews that citizens own, disqualifying foreign ships from doing this work.

The Jones Act is part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It is also somewhat controversial. But what some people may not know is it is not always in effect.

Lifting the Jones Act

The Secretary of Homeland Security has the ability to pause the Jones Act and put the requirements on hold if there is a need associated with national security or if there is a national emergency. The decision is on a case-by-case basis. There are no hard-fast rules. It is up to the secretary to make the call as to when to lift the act.


Secretaries of Homeland Security have lifted the Jones Act many times. It is a common move during major hurricanes, such as Katrina and Irma. It has also happened during economic downtimes. For example, in 2017, three was a gas shortage that allowed foreign vessels to deliver products in response to hurricanes that had led to the fuel issues.

The controversy

Some people feel the Jones Act oversteps and is not necessary. They believe that it is damaging to the economy. But others feel the opposite and think it is beneficial to the United States’s shipping industry, providing protection to domestic vessels. Regardless of the opinions, it has been beneficial in many situations, and with the ability of the Secretary of Homeland Security to lift it as needed, there is some flexibility to it.