Philly Shipyard, one of the few shipbuilders in America focused on making large commercial vessels, has run out of orders. Most of its workforce has been furloughed. This is bad news for America’s military, which relies on the domestically-built and manned commercial fleet to supplement government sealift in wartime. A 1920 law called the Jones Act was supposed to protect U.S. shipbuilders and the merchant marine workforce by reserving domestic routes exclusively for them, but if Philly is sinking, then that isn’t enough. The nation needs to preserve an industrial capacity to build large ocean-going commercial vessels for both economic and security reasons. The Navy may be the only near-term source of demand for commercial vessels through its program for recapitalizing aged auxiliary vessels. Congress should seriously consider accelerating that effort before places like Philly Shipyard disappear. None of this would be happening if other maritime nations weren’t subsidizing their shipbuilders and commercial fleets. I have written a commentary for Forbes here.
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