The Washington Post printed an editorial last week “The Jones Act Ship Law Has Out lived it’s Usefulness“. Click on the link to view the article and the numerious comments in favor of our position.

The Metal Trades Department response to this editorial is below.

To the Editor

Re: Time to Rethink the Jones Act

What the Washington Post snidely dismisses as “protectionism” others among us see as national security. The United States is of necessity, a maritime nation separated from much of the globe by two oceans. Contrary to your concerns over the negative effects of the Jones Act on “free” trade, it seems clear to the Metal Trades—and the men and women that we represent who build and repair ships—that a lack of enforcement of the Jones Act has starved America’s shipbuilding industry into near extinction: with only six major private shipyards employing fewer than 50,000 workers nationwide.

Particularly worrisome about your concerns on “free trade” is the fact that American shipbuilding accounts for less than 1% of the commercial ships built world-wide. At the end of WWII American shipbuilding dominated the world’s shipbuilding. Now, we are so statistically insignificant to the point that we are not accounted for at all by the world’s shipbuilding industry. “Protectionism?” You bet! What is wrong with protecting America from economic disaster? Protecting a vital strategic national defense industry?  What do you think South Korea and Communist China are doing?  They heavily subsidize their strategic industries. They have government policies that promote their ship financing and manipulate their currency values to make it cheaper to purchase and finance a ship purchase from them. We don’t do anything like that for any of our industries. Compare apples to apples and America’s workers can compete on a level playing field with anyone, anywhere.

As the U.S. shipbuilding industry withers, America becomes even more dependent on other nations that do not necessarily care about our welfare not only for goods that we no longer manufacture, but also on the delivery of those products to our shores. And, if we are not building commercial vessels, we will no longer have the skills or capacity to produce military vessels. Any nation that cannot build its own defensive weapons systems is not a world power and totally dependent on the dominant nations.

Communist China and South Korea are the world’s largest shipbuilders. Do you want us to place an order for a nuclear submarine from Communist China? How about Putin’s Russia? I hear that they may have some Oscar class subs for sale.

It is beneath deplorable that critics of the Jones Act choose to exploit the Gulf oil spill as yet another excuse to attack the efficacy or the relevance of the Jones Act. As you well know, the Bush Administration waived Jones Act regulations on offshore drilling on behalf of the oil industry.

Furthermore, a healthy and profitable private shipbuilding industry would be a viable employment alternative to the Gulf region’s current dependence on the offshore oil industry. American shipbuilding is the last vestige of the heavy manufacturing industry left in the USA. Would you kill the very last free ranging buffalo? Anyone can kill jobs- you want to kill ours so badly. Why don’t you just send yours overseas as well.