BY MAUREEN N. MARATITA
Journal Staff

Congressman Edward E. Case in December introduced three bills aimed to affect the Jones Act and its provisions.

They were:

  • the Noncontiguous Shipping Relief Act, which exempts all noncontiguous U.S. locations, including Hawaii, from the Jones Act;
  • the Noncontiguous Shipping Reasonable Rate Act, which benchmarks the definition of a “reasonable rate” which domestic shippers can charge as no more than ten percent above international shipping rates for comparable routes; and
  • the Noncontiguous Shipping Competition Act, which rescinds the Jones Act wherever monopolies or duopolies in noncontiguous Jones Act shipping develop.

Matson Navigation Co. issued the following statement on Dec. 20 in response to the bills.

“Hanging Hawaii’s higher costs of living on shipping ignores what local economists and journalists have consistently found over the years, which is that shipping costs are just one of many cost factors that go into local pricing of consumer goods and represent a small fraction of price differences between Hawaii and the mainland.

“The reason the Jones Act has had such strong bi-partisan support in every Congress and administration in modern times is because it is important to homeland security and national defense, as well as the security of service to remote communities like Hawaii and Alaska, from an economic standpoint. The importance of being able to rely on critical supply line transportation is easy to take for granted but hard to overstate.

“The Jones Act also supports more than 650,000 jobs in the U.S., including thousands here in Hawaii,” Matson said.

There has been no movement on the bills to date. 

Michael N. Hansen, president of the Hawaii Shippers Council, told the Journal, “The chances of success are probably not very good.” Other lawmakers have not co-sponsored the bills, Hansen said.

The Jones Act refers to several federal domestic shipping laws, and is frequently taken to mean Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 and its requirement that goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported on ships built, owned, and operated by United States citizens or permanent residents.

Certain foreign-built ships are allowed to trade with Guam. The Northern Mariana Islands, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa are exempt from the Jones Act. mbj