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When and why are Jones Act waivers granted?

On Behalf of | Mar 28, 2024 | Admiralty And Maritime Law

Enacted in 1920 to protect the interests of the U.S. maritime industry, the Jones Act requires vessels built, owned and operated by U.S. citizens or permanent residents to transport goods transported between U.S. ports.

However, there are instances where the government grants waivers to the Jones Act.

Emergency response and disaster relief

During times of national emergency or significant disaster, such as hurricanes, the government grants Jones Act waivers to ensure the efficient flow of goods and aid to affected areas. These waivers allow non-U.S. flagged vessels to transport goods, including food, water and medical supplies, between U.S. ports (domestic shipping) in impacted regions temporarily.

Insufficient U.S. flagged vessels

At times, there may be a shortage of U.S.-flagged vessels available to meet the demand for transporting goods between domestic ports. Jones Act waivers enable foreign-flagged vessels to transport goods and address this shortage. These waivers ensure the uninterrupted flow of commerce.

Market conditions and economic considerations

In certain circumstances, economic factors may influence the decision to grant Jones Act waivers. For example, during periods of market volatility or supply chain disruptions, waivers may alleviate pressure on domestic shipping capacity and price stability.

Waiver decisions

The Secretary of Homeland Security determines the need for and grants waivers to foreign ships. This office bases its decisions on U.S. ship availability and situation urgency. It also considers the impact of the waiver and the shortage not granting it would cause on national security and the economy.

While the Jones Act serves as a cornerstone of U.S. maritime policy, its waivers ensure the resilience of the nation’s maritime transportation infrastructure in times of crisis.


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