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Basics of the Jones Act

People in California who live along or near any of the state's ports know that guarding these ports is important. Equally important is the logistical tracking of vessels into and out of the ports. There are many elements to this as well as laws. One such law is commonly referred to as the Jones Act. As the Los Angeles Times indicates, the official name of the Jones Act is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920.

As with many laws, this piece of legislation was initially developed in response to a situation that was very timely at its inception. Today, however, many people believe that the relevance of this law is no longer there they way it may have been almost a century ago. This is despite the fact that it has been supported by both republican and democratic presidents even from this century.

The law requires that any boat or water vessel that travels between United States ports to ship cargo must be fully American. By this it means that the vessel must have been built in the United States, carry and display a U.S. flag, be owned by an American and be operated by an American citizen.

NBC News reports that in 2017 after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. island territory of Puerto Rico, the federal government was faced with a serious dilemma. The island needed aid and it could get more of that aid if the Jones Act was not governing the waters and ports around it. For a short period, the Department of Homeland Security suspended the law so that other ships could get in. Beyond that, however, the law still stands today.


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