Saturday, June 19, 2010

The Wall Street Journal and the Jones Act

A cow pie (Photo from Wikipedia

From the Wall Street Journal -The President Does A Jones Act

Blame it on the protectionist Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also called the Jones Act, that requires ships working in U.S. waters to be built, operated and owned by Americans. 

This is pure poppycock of course. Non-Jones Act ships can work in U.S. waters. What they can not do is load cargo in one U.S. port and discharge it in another. U.S. airlines enjoy the same protection.
Building specialized clean-up vessels in the U.S. is too expensive because of high union labor costs, and unions don't want ships built with foreign labor to be used in U.S. waters
This is pure nonsense as well. Every major port in the United States is filled with ships built with foreign labor.

I wonder what percent of the U.S. vessels currently working on the oil spill are union manned? My guess is that the number is close to zero.

As for the nonsense about "accepting help" from foreign countries, these are not good Samaritan acts, they expect to get paid. No doubt American companies are trying to push their company equipment and vessels to the forefront as well.



Anonymous said...

K.C. and others, there is another person commenting as Anonymous within the past few days that is not the same as me, the first "Captain Anonymous" that started on your first Jones Act post.

Anyway, the "other Anonymous" is a little more rude and abusive than I. Not that I've been the model of civility...but I just wanted to point it out.


Anonymous said...

I still believe the Jones Act debate is obfuscating the point that the government response has been chaotic and incomplete - especially when it comes to accepting foreign help.

Poking holes in poorly written articles doesn't exactly prove you are correct - it just proves that the standards at far too many media outlets leave much to be desired.

Regarding your comment:

"As for the nonsense about "accepting help" from foreign countries, these are not good Samaritan acts, they expect to get paid. No doubt American companies are trying to push their company equipment and vessels to the forefront as well."

This makes no sense at all.

There's no question that there are plenty of people and firms out there trying to get in on the clean-up, regardless of their motivations. That still doesn't change the fact that the best equipment in the world (by far) is the foreign ships that are not here.

And who cares if they (foreign countries) want to be compensated? Even if we (the USA) had to pay for it, we should. But it's clear that we wouldn't have to - the bill would go to BP. So why not spend their money??

I'll go back to my (perhaps poor fitting?) analogy...if your house is burning down and your local fire department doesn't have enough capacity to put it you turn the trucks rushing to your house from the next town not to bother, because you don't want to get the bill next week?!? That's insane.

I suspect you'd rather wait for the guys down at the local garage to build a new firetruck and hope your house isn't down to the foundation by the time they get it built.


Ken E. Beck said...


We don't know the nature of these offers for help. For example I could offer my 9 foot (non-union, non-Jones Act) skiff and an empty coffee can for scooping oil for $10,000 a day. Likely I will be turned down. I am then free to make what ever claims I think I can get away with.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, I'm not sure I understand your point. We do know the nature of (at least some of) the foreign offers. For example, the Swedish Coast Guard offer was for 3 ships, capable of skimming 370bbl/hr (or 15,540 gallons/hr) of oil. Each. I don't care how many coffee cans you use, I doubt you could match that.

It's also highly unlikely that there are U.S. vessels that can do that, and are just sitting in port somewhere. If they existed, and the CG wasn't mobilizing them, that would be an even bigger tragedy.

I would bet that a lot of the American offers probably are small boats with "coffee cans" (or more likely low volume drum, disk, or other skimmers) that are good for getting in the marshes, and up close to shore.

But again, those are apples and oranges, so I STILL don't see the justification for refusing the foreign help.


Paul, Dammit! said...

I posted something similar on, which used to be a libertarian message board, but has since gone to the right of the American Nazi party. Somehow I got pegged as a 'union thug.'
It seems to me that there is nothing you can do in the face of such ignorance As far as I know, there is no union presence in the Gulf's cleanup efforts, except in a few of the tugs from NY that are pushing slop barges.
I'm seeing a lot of pie-eyed excitement about the use of European equipment in the cleanup, as well. I suspect it's the same phenomena that makes for better shampoo sales when you add 'European formula!' on the label.
Finally, explaining that much of the oil is emulsified, and not collectable via skimmer has reached deaf ears. People seem to believe that a Maginot Line of skimmers would solve all our problems, when, ironically, they only skim the surface of our troubles.

Ken E. Beck said...

Thanks for the comments Paul. The basic point is that I don't believe people at home at their keyboards can judge what equipment is needed better then the people in charge and on the scene.

Ken E. Beck said...


When you go to the store do you purchase everything that is offered or do you just buy what you need and leave the things you don't need at the store?

Anonymous said...

So your response then is that there are sufficient resources in the GoM?!? No additional skimmers are needed?!?! Am I reading that correctly?

I would hazard a guess that there are a few million people living in the GoM region that might disagree with that opinion.

But....since you're sitting at your keyboard just like I am, I guess you are an exception to your own point - and you must be right that the foreign help isn't necessary.


BTW, your market question makes absolutely no sense. But just to have a little fun...have you ever watched the news when a coming storm is announced?? Shelves are cleared of water and other essentials, just in case it's a bad storm. So, yeah, when there's an emergency (or a perceived coming emergency), people go to the store and buy them out of every resource that might be needed in response to that emergency.

The leak in the GoM is an emergency/disaster/'s not a run to the market to get a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.