MARAD: JONES ACT MUST BE UPHELD DURING WEST COAST PORT CONFLICT
U.S. Maritime Administrator William G. Schubert said the laws governing coastal shipping must not be violated during the West Coast port lockout.
Hyundai Merchant Marine, which discharged a load of containerized freight at Los Angeles in anticipation of the port lockout, recently asked permission to deliver that cargo on a foreign-flag vessel from Los Angeles to other West Coast ports.
Due to the port lockout, the Customs Service said if an operator uses a vessel of the same shipping company to complete the voyage stopped by the lockout, the operator would not be in violation of section 27 of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, also known as the Jones Act.
The Jones Act, however, requires that cargo in the U.S. coastal trades sail on U.S.-flag vessels. Waivers to the law are only allowed during times of national defense.
“The Maritime Administration does not believe that these current circumstances meet the definition of the interest of national defense, and hereby requests that the Customs Service instruct all of its personnel to enforce the provisions of the Jones Act,” Schubert said in a letter to Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner on Wednesday.
MarAd officials also pointed out that South Korea, the headquarters for Hyundai, has increased the jurisdiction of its domestic fleet for coastwise transport, which could affect U.S. military cargoes moving between bases in that country.
U.S.-flag vessel operators CSX Lines, Totem Ocean Trailer Express, Trailerbridge, Crowley and Matson Navigation have indicated to MarAd that they’re willing and able to use some of their vessels to move containers between ports on the West Coast. “I think there is ample capacity to take care of the present cargo situation,” said Gloria Cataneo Tosi, president of American Maritime Congress, which represents U.S.-flag vessel interests in Washington.