Over the last four decades, America has gone from being the biggest builder of commercial ships used in conducting international trade to producing no such ships at all. Only 1% of oceangoing container ships and tankers are now built in the U.S., and all of them are used in the protected domestic market. What protects that market is the Jones Act, a hundred-year-old law that reserves routes between domestic ports for U.S.-made ships manned by U.S. crews. Efforts are constantly being made to chip away at Jones Act protections, but Congress is currently moving to tighten restrictions. A case in point is the pending legislation to require waivers before operators of offshore oil platforms can turn to foreign sources for heavy-lift support of their rigs. I have written a piece for Forbes describing the stakes involved here.
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