Houston offshore injury lawyers at Morrow & Sheppard monitor legal changes that affect our clients, including changes to the Jones Act.
The Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, is a federal law intended to promote American merchant marines. The Act is named after its sponsor, former senator Wesley Jones.
The Jones Act provides injured seamen and offshore workers with the right to seek compensation directly from their employers. (Our Firm handles those cases.)
The Jones Act also mandates that vessels which transport goods between U.S. ports must be constructed in America, owned by Americans, and crewed by Americans.
You can learn more about the Jones Act here.
The Proposed Changes
Over the past several decades, foreign companies have exploited several loopholes in the Jones Act.
On the last day of the Obama Administration, the United States Custom and Border Protection announced its intention to close those loopholes.
In particular, the revised Jones Act will require offshore drilling equipment to be carried by American vessels.
Previously, in a series of pro-foreign-vessel rulings, certain offshore drilling, pipeline, and energy-related equipment had been deemed “vessel equipment” that was not “merchandise” covered by the Jones Act.
This loophole meant vessels crewed by foreigners could transport and install things like “Christmas trees” and other subsea offshore drilling equipment.
Under the revised Jones Act, however, American vessels with American crews will do this work.
The “open comment” period for the new law will end in April 2017.
American Companies & Lawmakers Praise Changes
The president of the Shipbuilders Council of America, Matt Paxton, praised the change, stating “This correction of past misinterpretations of the Jones Act will enable our shipyards to continue to supply, build, maintain and repair the essential vessels needed by the oil and gas industry.”
The American Maritime Partnership has anticipated that the changes will “rightfully restore over 3,200 American jobs to the American economy and close loopholes that gave preference to foreign workers and foreign shipbuilding.”
The Republican majority whip in the House of Representatives, representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, stated that “this corrective action is the right thing to do for Louisiana workers and will also benefit the American economy.”
In a statement, Representative Duncan Hunter of California underscored why many believe the Jones Act is critical in today’s world of global terrorism: “Unlike foreign seafarers, who generally enter the United States through carefully defined ports of entry, American seafarers can move freely throughout our nation — navigating the waterways of over the vast majority of our states and all coastlines. They deliver cargo and people throughout our communities, near our schools, past sports arenas, and under major highways. By one estimate, there are more miles of inland waterways in our nation than our land borders with Mexico and Canada combined. It would be impossible to monitor thousands of foreign vessels with foreign crews in our waters. Fortunately, we don’t have to because of the Jones Act.”
Our Maritime Injury Lawyers Represent Injured Seamen
Because the maritime industry is critical to our national economy and security, seamen and offshore workers are granted special protections.
This includes the right to seek pain and suffering under the Jones Act in the event of an injury.
Jones Act claims are often complex, however, and we encourage anyone to who is injured offshore or on a vessel to consult with a maritime injury attorney.
Our maritime and Jones Act lawyers represent injured workers nationwide.
We provide free consultations, and we only get paid when our clients win. We have membership in the prestigious Maritime Law Association.
Please contact us at 1-800-489-2216 for more information.