In what many see as a controversial move, Arizona Senator John McCain is proposing a legislative amendment designed to repeal the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. In addition to providing key protections to crew members, captains and other seamen, the Act requires that all ships operating inside the United States and between U.S. ports are American built, operated and owned. As he works to attach the amendment to the Senate’s Keystone XL pipeline bill, many in the shipbuilding industry are crying foul.

McCain’s arguments for repeal

As the primary reasoning for his initiative, McCain cites his belief that the Jones Act is an antiquated obstacle to free trade which unnecessarily raises the cost of shipping for American consumers and hinders the competitiveness of the industry in the U.S. In support of his opinion, McCain points to data from the Congressional Research Service indicating that moving a barrel of crude oil from the Gulf Coast to New England costs $6 on a tanker subject to the Jones Act, but only $2 to move the same barrel to a Canadian refinery. He views this as an unnecessary cost to the American public which can easily be eliminated.

Disagreement among maritime experts

Authorities within the maritime industry take issue with McCain’s position, arguing that lower foreign prices are actually the result of the generous subsidies put in place by the governments of competitor nations including Japan, China and Korea. In addition, industry advocates have raised serious concerns about the detrimental impact they believe repeal of the Jones Act would have on the industrial shipbuilding base in America. It has been suggested that tens of thousands of U.S. maritime jobs could be lost as a result.

Worker protections under the Jones Act

During the earlier years of the 20th century, it grew increasingly obvious that seamen and offshore workers needed substantial safeguards put into place to protect them in the event they sustained injuries while on the job. In response, Congress passed the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, with Section 27 of the legislation taking on particular importance. Referred to as the Jones Act, this section gives seamen and other categories of maritime workers the ability to seek monetary compensation from ship captains, crew members and owners whose negligent acts or omissions caused their injuries.

The Jones Act provides essential protections for workers operating on:

  • Ferry boats
  • Tugboats
  • Commercial fishing vessels
  • Ocean-going ships
  • Drilling platforms
  • Oil rigs

New York maritime lawyers ready to help

The New York maritime and admiralty lawyers of Edelman, Krasin & Jaye have long been tireless advocates for individuals who have sustained serious harm while on the water, either as a worker or a passenger. Such cases require specialized knowledge of the distinct and complex area of admiralty law, and our team has decades of experience handing matters involving the Jones Act, the Longshore and Harbor Workers’  Compensation Act, the Death on the High Seas Act and all other federal statutes relating to injuries suffered on or around open waterways.

Victims of maritime injuries may be able to receive compensation for things such as:

  • Medical expenses
  • Lost wages
  • Loss of earning potential
  • Pain and suffering
  • Funeral costs

To schedule your no-cost consultation and begin the process of exploring available legal options, contact us at 1-800-469-7429.

  1. The Florida Times-Union, Sen. John McCain plan to scuttle 100-year-old maritime law unleashes anger on First Coast,
  2. Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, Jones Act,
  3. United States Department of Labor, The Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Compensation Act (LHWCA),
  4. Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, Admiralty: An Overview,