Elected officials and industry leaders announced the growth Friday at events in Jacksonville and Tampa.
Florida has seen a 25 percent growth in domestic maritime industry jobs and ranks second behind Louisiana for the number of jobs in the industry, according to a study published earlier this month conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) on behalf of the Transportation Institute (TI).
The industry employs more than 65,990 people and generates $3.73 billion in worker income in the Sunshine State and produces $14.6 billion annually for the state’s economy, the study found. Since 2011, the domestic maritime industry has created nearly 14,000 additional jobs in Florida, said Sara Fuentes, TI’s vice president of government affairs, Friday at JAXPORT’s Talleyrand Terminal.
Elected officials and business leaders joined the Florida Maritime Partnership and the American Maritime Partnership Friday at the Jacksonville terminal and Tampa’s Gulf Marine Shipyard to announce the job growth and celebrate Florida’s domestic maritime industry.
“I am so proud of our Florida domestic maritime partners,” Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla., said. “They are truly making a huge impact not only for the state of Florida but for our nation.”
The industry includes 9,520 jobs and contributes $2 billion annually to the economy in the Tampa area and 9,120 jobs and $1.84 billion contributed annually in Jacksonville.
The speakers at JAXPORT credited the Jones Act for Florida’s strength in the domestic maritime industry. The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, requires all goods shipped between American ports travel on U.S. -flag ships with American crews.
“We’ve seen unprecedented growth in the Gulf region,” said Dean Corgey, vice president of the Seafarers International Union’s Gulf Coast Region. “Jobs are coming at us from every direction and we really appreciate the cooperation we have with the industry. The glue that holds all that together, as we all know, is the Jones Act. Without that we would not be able to do what we’re doing today.”
Opponents of the Jones Act, including the late Sen. John McCain, say the law hinders free trade and raises shipping costs.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in early February requested a 10-year Jones Act waiver, adding it was necessary for the development of a liquefied natural gas delivery system to the island. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced a bill earlier this month to allow qualified, non-U.S.-flag ships to operate between U.S. ports in domestic trades.
“I’ll always be opposed to that for this reason: What wins wars is logistics,” Rutherford said. “Without the Jones Act, we lose our shipbuilding, we lose our mariners. This industry is critical for supporting our national security interests, and that’s why I’m a huge Jones Act supporter. I will fight that tooth and nail because I know how important it is for our national security.
A Senate Commerce Committee hearing in early March opposed any degradation to the law.
“When we have good policy in place, we should do nothing statewide or at the federal level to bother with that because it’s working just fine,” Florida State Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson said Friday.
Nationally, the PwC study found domestic job creation rose 30 percent and the industry employees nearly 650,000 Americans and contributes $154 billion annually to America’s economy.
“This study shows the overwhelmingly positive impact the domestic maritime industry has on the national, state and local economy, especially in Florida,” Fuentes said. “The findings of our most recent study demonstrate the strength and necessity of the domestic industry. We need the maritime industry working each and every day to advance American strength, security and prosperity.”