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The Jones Act and Free Trade

(Max Hardberger – WorkBoat)

Walter Blessey, chairman and CEO of Blessey Marine Services, the Harahan, La.-based tank barge operator, wrote an op-ed piece for on Sept. 20 in support of the Jones Act (“Support the Jones Act”).

It’s no surprise that a U.S. inland barge operator would support the Jones Act, and Blessey’s arguments generally follow traditional reasoning in favor of the 100-year-old law. For that reason, it’s useful to examine them one-by-one as emblematic of the pro-Jones-Act resistance to what appears to be a growing national movement toward repeal. Certainly, the debate was reignited recently when the Trump administration relaxed Jones Act restrictions on cabotage in response to hurricane-related fuel shortages.

Tellingly, Blessey writes, “I am a free trade guy except when it comes to our national security.” Herein lies the central problem for conservatives who support the Jones Act: How do you reconcile a commitment to free trade with support for the most anti-free-trade legislation ever passed by Congress? But taking Blessey at his word, let us assume that without a national security angle, his commitment to free trade would overcome his other objections to its repeal. Accordingly, we can discount his claim that, “Yes, we could possibly hire foreigners cheaper. However, we would risk a lower standard of performance. We would risk an industry with more collisions, allisions, and oil spills.” Click here to read more.