You might have heard about the Jones Act during discussions of the Gulf oil spill. In layman’s terms, it prohibits foreign-crewed or foreign-built ships from participating in domestic operations in US waters. By that I mean that a French ship, for example, couldn’t work a contract to pick up cargo in Boston and deliver it to Miami. That ship can take cargo from France to Boston, certainly, and then carry a load back out to Spain, for instance, but not from one domestic port to another in the US.
In the context of the Gulf crisis, the Jones Act basically prevents foreign-built or crewed skimmer ships from operating in assistance of the clean-up efforts. Calls are going out to either waive the act for the duration of the clean-up or to repeal the act all together. Brian Schoeneman over at Common Sense writes on the topic here. The issue isn’t as cut-and-dry as some are making it out to be and it’s a good thing to be conversant in all sides of the argument. Brian’s article is a good step in that direction and I recommend it. I’m just starting to engage on the matter now, so I’ll write more on it as I form up the thoughts.