Jones Act – Definition

Cite this article as:"Jones Act – Definition," in The Business Professor, updated December 9, 2019, last accessed October 20, 2020,


Jones Act Definition

The Jones Act is otherwise called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. This law regulates maritime commerce across the United States. According to this federal law, citizens and permanent residents of the US are the only ones that can engage in merchant marine activities in the U.S. the Jones Act promotes the American Marine and ensures that non-US ships are not allowed to participate in US trading lanes. The Jones Act provides clear guidelines for the regulation of maritime commerce in the United States.

A Little More on What is the Jones Act

As part of the ways to regulate maritime commerce in the United States, the Jones Act stipulates that maritime merchandise in the United States must be carried out using ships or vessels that are built, operate and owned by US citizens and permanent residents.

The Jones Act is often regarded as a protectionist piece of legislation that ensures that America maintains a strong economic, political and national security strength in the maritime industry. The Jones Act provides that goods shipped within the U.S must be done using vessels and ships owned and operated by its citizens. As part of the provisions of this law, sailors can claim damages against the shipowner in the event of an injury.

Part of the regulations of the jones act includes higher rates charged for the shipping of goods to countries outside of the terrains or lands of the United States. The presence of this legislation also create higher costs of shipping goods within U.S lands and ports.

History of the Jones Act

The Jones Act was enacted in 1920, it is a piece of legislation incorporated into section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. The United States Congress passed the Jones Act as a federal law to regulate maritime commerce or merchant marine in the country. There are certain shipping requirements clearly stated in the Jones Act which largely benefitted the Wesley Jone’s constituent at the expense of other territories. This is because other constituents or territories that relied on imports experienced a decline in imports as a result of higher rates charged for shipping goods outside of the U.S lands.

Criticism of the Jones Act

There are several critics of the Jones Act and their criticism is often premised on the fact that the federal law restricts trade with Puerto Rico which creates problems for the economy and budget of the Island. The major critics or opponents of the Jones Act are states and owners of shipping firms, navy yards, and workers at the port. Given that the Jones Act increased the cost of shipping to Puerto Rico, and other non-continental U.S. places such as Hawaii and Alaska, importation to these lands have greatly declined.

According to the critics of the Jones Act, the Act favors U.S lands at the detriment of non-US lands, they, therefore, want the law repealed.

References for “The Jones Act…/report-white-house-considering-jones-act-wai…

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