Multi-jurisdictional approach used with Jones Act - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Multi-jurisdictional approach used with Jones Act

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As part of efforts to advocate change to federal statute that impact shipping costs to Guam, island leaders this morning joined officials from areas outside the continental United States who share similar challenges to the controversial Jones Act.

For Guam and a handful of non-contiguous jurisdictions, interstate ocean shipping is a vital economic link between the mainland states. Senator Rory Respicio said, "Guam is completely dependent on ocean shipping, so how that shipping is regulated deeply impacts the stability of our economy as well as its future growth." And today, before officials from Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico via a videoconference at the Guam Legislature, Guam senators shared their concerns over the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 - better known as the Jones Act.

The senator continued, "We are impacted by laws created by a Congress where we have no vote in and by a President, we cannot elect. Therefore, the mandates, and laws emanating from Washington loom large in any discussion we have in charting the future course of our island community. And, one federal law in particular that has been at the forefront of Guam's concerns for more than a generation now has been the Jones Act."

The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between US ports must be carriers owned and operated by US companies and crews. And while we are exempt from this requirement, because cargo still has to go through Hawaii before it gets to Guam, we still feel the impact. Tuesday's videoconference was to discuss new strategies to abolish the costly federal restriction.

"The reality however, is that despite such strong sentiments expressed from many quarters of over time there is no consensus and no action at the national level on this issue," added Respicio.

As noted in a resolution passed by the Guam Legislature last year, while the Jones Act does provide a significant degree of protection for US shipyards, a US International Trade Commission economic study found that repealing the Jones Act would have an annual positive effect on the overall US economy of $656 million.

The Guam Chamber of Commerce has even chimed in on the debate with its board of directors even voting to support the repeal of the total Jones Act back in 1993. Chamber president David Leddy stated, "We also understand that the chamber is about free and open markets and competition and that's what the chamber is all about, but we also have to understand that is equally important to pricing and scheduling we want to make sure our goods and services get here. So it's very sensitive issue and we have to make sure we don't disrupt the economy, and so I think it's important for everyone to come together and discuss this again."

Leddy ultimately says the issue is "How do we lower trans-shipment costs to our consumers?" Senator Respicio meanwhile says he will be working through the Guam First Commission to incorporate any findings or input shared between these other noncontiguous jurisdictions.

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