Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., intends to introduce a bill to improve Coast Guard enforcement of the vessel construction requirements of the Jones Act, his staff said Friday afternoon.
During House debate of the 2010 Coast Guard appropriations bill, Taylor offered an amendment that would have set statutory limits on the amount of steel that could be used by a foreign shipyard to repair or rebuild a Jones Act-eligible ship. The House voted the amendment out of order.
According to Stephen Paranich, Taylor’s chief of staff, members of the House Ways and Means staff objected to the amendment based on concerns raised by the U.S. Trade Representative. The USTR worried that the changes in the Jones Act would trigger a review of the law by the World Trade Organization.
The Jones Act, which has been the foundation of U.S. domestic maritime policy since the 1920s, requires ships operating between U.S. ports to be owned and manned by U.S. citizens, and built in the United States. The law was grandfathered when the United States adopted the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the WTO’s predecessor.
Paranich said that Taylor’s amendment had been drafted with the assistance of the Coast Guard. Repairs or rebuilds of Jones Act ships in foreign shipyards are managed by regulation by the Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center.
In June 2008, Taylor held hearings about the Coast Guard’s regulatory practice after the agency gave the go-ahead to Matson Navigation and Seabulk to have substantial construction on their ships done at shipyards in China. He called the Coast Guard’s approval of the projects “a screw-up.”
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