Kirby CEO Urges Support for Jones Act at House Subcommittee Hearing
Testifying on behalf of the American Maritime Partnership, Kirby Corporation (KEX) Chairman & CEO Joseph Pyne urged Members of Congress to strongly support the Jones Act for the economic, national security and homeland security benefits it provides to the United States. Mr. Pyne delivered his testimony at a May 21 hearing before the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation on “The Role of U.S. Ships and Mariners.” The first panel consisted of government witnesses who discussed the government’s role supporting U.S. ships and mariners, including John Porcari, Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and Gen. William Fraser, Commander, U.S. Transportation Command. The second panel consisted of U.S. maritime industry leaders representing vessel owners, shipbuilders, and maritime labor unions.
In his statement, Mr. Pyne said “the Jones Act not only helps ensure national security, but also provides good paying jobs and good benefits for workers in America. The domestic maritime industry sustains half a million jobs and takes care of its people. When the markets are tight, even discussing waivers makes matters worse, sends a chilling message to job creators and causes shippers to be less committed to supporting new Jones Act vessels.” When asked what Congress can do to help the U.S. maritime industry, Mr. Pyne urged Congress to maintain and convey certainty that the Jones Act will be upheld as the law of the land. “Government should not send mixed messages because it dampens the enthusiasm for investment, and there should be no mixed message in compromising the Jones Act,” Mr. Pyne added.
Throughout his testimony, Mr. Pyne underscored the importance of steadfast Congressional support for the Jones Act and how the industry’s future hinges upon that continued resolve. Mr. Pyne noted Kirby’s significant financial commitment as well as that of other AMP member companies, stating that investments “are occurring in virtually every segment of the domestic U.S.-flag industry—dredging and marine construction; tugboats, towboats and barges; passenger vessels; and tank and dry cargo vessels. Thousands of workers in American shipyards and related businesses build these vessels, helping to sustain the shipbuilding industry base. Thousands of American seafarers are employed on the new vessels, providing a pool of seafarers to meet military sealift requirements. The domestic U.S.-flag maritime industry has demonstrated time and again that it can, and will, continue to meet America’s transportation needs.”
Commenting on Mr. Pyne’s testimony, AWO President & CEO Tom Allegretti stated that “without a doubt, Joe’s thoughtful testimony and honest perspective as an industry leader gave the Subcommittee members a greater understanding of how much the industry depends on Congress to vocally and visibly support the Jones Act and how integral that support is to both the industry’s future growth and the benefits the industry provides to the nation.”
Other panelists also showed strong support for the Jones Act. Fred Harris, CEO of NASSCO, testifying on behalf of the Shipbuilders Council of America, said the Jones Act is critical to U.S. maritime strength and emphasized that it is vital that the U.S. maintain its shipbuilding capability. Augie Tellez, Executive Vice President of the Seafarers International Union, called the domestic Jones Act industry “vibrant and growing.”
In his opening statement, Subcommittee Chairman Duncan Hunter Jr. (R-Calif.) reflected his hope that the new leadership of DOT and MARAD will protect the U.S. maritime industry by reducing Jones Act waivers. He also questioned the President’s budget that restructures the Food for Peace program, under which U.S. agricultural commodities are moved on U.S. vessels to needy nations around the world.
Subcommittee Ranking Member Rep. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) stressed how Jones Act vessels constitute a substantial component of national defense and took the opportunity to champion the industry at large, saying, “We should take steps to enhance and grow cargo for American vessels. We can do that by enforcing the Jones Act. I will continue to advocate for a better environment for maritime transportation to succeed, and from the bottom of my heart I thank our mariners and their work.”
In his statement, Deputy Secretary Porcari stated the importance of the maritime Security Program in providing 60 commercial vessels ready to meet national security needs, as well as reiterated DOT’s support for the Jones Act. Gen. Fraser then stressed the importance of U.S. merchant mariners to U.S. sealift capacity, calling domestic mariners critical to the U.S. military capabilities.
Both panels received several questions from subcommittee members in attendance at the hearing, including Reps. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.) and Tome Rice (R-S.C.). Rep Coble questioned Deputy Secretary Porcari about the progress made since last year’s passage of the Coast Guard Authorization Act requiring that MARAD improve disclosure in Jones Act waivers. Deputy Secretary Pocari’s response to that line of questioning continued to defend the Administration’s actions relating to the more than 40 Jones Act waivers that occurred after the 2011 SPR drawdown, indicating that the Administration’s position on Jones Act waivers has not substantially changed.