Contrary to former Rep. Ernest Istook’s assertions (“Jones Act Protects Shipping for Future War,” Letters, Nov. 12), the biggest enemy of domestic shipping isn’t foreign subsidies but U.S. protectionism. The Jones Act’s U.S.-build requirement forces domestic carriers to buy ships that cost up to five times more than those constructed abroad. That means fewer ships. Entire ship types, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) carriers, are missing from the paltry Jones Act fleet.
Dwindling ship numbers and the inability of Americans to purchase U.S. energy may be many things, but an exercise in the promotion of national security isn’t among them.
The Jones Act has been in effect since 1920. One would assume that, in 99 years, if its provisions were going to correct the imbalance of American ship production, it would have done so. Since, to use Mr. Istook’s figures, only 0.44% of oceangoing cargo ships today are American, and only 0.28% of commercial ships under construction are American, it would appear that it has not done so, although it does seem to have caused some difficulties with coastal shipping. So why bother defending the Jones Act? It seems clear that some other way to approach the problem should be devised.
Bruceton Mills, W.V.