AFL-CIO Maritime Trades Department Executive Secretary-Treasurer Dan Duncan explained the struggles faced by seafarers, the Jones Act and its strengths and how cargo ships are helping to slow climate change on the Sept. 1 episode of America’s Work Force Radio Podcast.
Keeping Mariners safe
With the COVID-19 pandemic still being prevalent worldwide, Duncan said American mariners are doing well and abiding by guidelines that have them essentially quarantined on ships with the rest of the crew. He said the problems and breakouts arise when port officials and repair workers board ships and bring COVID-19 with them.
Rather than pushing for legislation from a gridlocked congress that will not deliver, Duncan said the Maritime Trades Department is working internally and with Navy agencies to create safe practices and keep vessels moving.
The Jones Act
Duncan described the Jones Act as one of the most important laws. It essentially says any cargo shipped from one American port to another American port must be transported on an American made vessel, with an American crew, owned by an American company and under the American flag.
The legislation goes back to the founding of the United States. In one form or another, there has been similar legislation requiring an American fleet.
Duncan added that the Jones Act has support from all walks of American Politics, even the current White House.
He then introduced a study that assessed the impact the Jones Act has on Hawaii. He said the law is responsible for 13,000 Hawaiian jobs, $787 million in annual workforce income and a $3.3 billion economic impact for the state.
Duncan added that the Jones Act is responsible for more than 650,000 jobs across all 50 states.
Cargo ships and climate change
The shipping industry has come under constant attack from environmental advocates due to the use of dirty fossil fuels and past practices that accelerated climate change.
Duncan said that American shipbuilders hear these concerns and have taken it upon themselves to build ships that run on liquefied natural gas. The fuel burns cleaner and allows ships to sail longer.