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Posted: May 14, 2018

Adm. Zukunft addresses importance of Jones Act to homeland security, consequences if cabotage law were to be repealed

U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft on May 9 addressed the homeland security value of the Jones Act, as well as some of the consequences if the law were to be repealed, in response to a question following his keynote speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, The Arctic of the Future: Strategic Pursuit or Great Power Miscalculation?

Following the presentation, an audience member asked: "My question relates to Law of the Sea. How critical is it for us to become a subscriber to that? Do you see any progress in that regard in a strategic need sense?"

Adm. Zukunft, in part, responded: "Ironically, a lot of the discussion right now is about the Jones Act - you know, the Jones Act of 1920. So, since you asked about Law of the Sea, you know, if you have an opportunity, here's what happens if we repeal the Jones Act. All our coastwise trade will probably be done by a third nation, namely China - not just coastwise trade, but plying our inland river systems as well. If we're looking at, hey, we can lower the cost of doing business, we can have a third nation do it on our behalf.

"The next thing that goes away are our maritime academies," he said. "You don't need them because we have foreign mariners. We don't know who they are, but they're foreign mariners plying our waters, and our internal waters as well, to conduct maritime commerce, which is a $4.6 trillion enterprise in the United States.

"And then the next thing that goes is our shipyards, our shipyards and the technology that goes with the shipyards," he said.

"So a segue from Law of the Sea Convention, but right now there's this fixation of 'we need to get after the Jones Act.' That is not the time and place to go after Jones Act," Adm. Zukunft said. "This is much more strategic as we look at Law of the Sea, and the consequences of repealing the Jones Act could really have severe repercussions as well."