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The Jones Act and its implications for Louisiana maritime workers

Louisiana is famous for its coastline and rivers. Many resident enthusiasts take to the state's waterways for recreational purposes and even more are maritime workers. With so many people in and on the water, it is important to have certain safety rules in place to prevent accidents between pleasure boaters and those earning a living on these waters.

One such act that was designed, in part, to prevent maritime accidents is Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act, which is also referred to as the Jones Act. This Act is essentially a cabotage law, which gives merchant marines the right to operate sea transport services through U.S. waters. According to the Jones Act, any merchandise being carried between American ports must be transported in a ship that was built in America, is owned by a U.S. citizen and flies the American flag. The crew of such a ship must be American merchant marines.

While these laws may seem to be restrictive, cabotage laws are fairly commonplace and are used to protect trade between two cities in a country. A good example of the implications of the Jones Act is the fact that only an American-owned airline can be used to carry passengers between two U.S. destinations. Likewise, a foreign-owned and operated ship cannot carry merchandise between two points in the United States.

The Jones Act has been in force for nearly 100 years. However, there has been a plethora of cabotage laws since the first Congressional session held in 1789. American lawmakers realized the benefits of a flourishing maritime industry early on. The Jones Act ensures that the United States has the shipyards, vessels and the sailors to staff these vessels, in part, to protect the country's economic security and keep its waterways safe.

Today, at least half of large-weighed vessels, more than 100 ships plying America's waterways, comply with the requirements of the Jones Act.

Source: American Maritime Congress, "The Jones Act - The Foundation of The Merchant Marine," accessed April 24, 2015

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