The National Maritime Historical Society

You are here > Maritime Resources > The Jones Act

The Jones Act

Keeping Up with the Jones Act


You may have heard of the Jones Act, but do you know what it covers? Sea History issues 159 and 160 featured articles by maritime lawyer and Tall Ships America President Michael J. Rauworth, explaining the many aspects of maritime commerce and employment covered by this, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. You can read these articles here: Part 1 and Part 2.

The Jones Act sections on cabotage are intended to ensure that the US has adequately trained personnel to build and staff ships during wartime.
By WSA, via Wikimedia Commons

Other sections of the Jones Act deal with improving the lot of maritime workers, including provisions for medical care and protections against abusive labor practices, such as a rewards system that motivated boardinghouse owners to deliver new crewmen—willing or not—to ships’ captains.
Photo: Oregon Historical Society

The Jones Act turns up in the news, particularly the sections dealing with cabotage, the transport of people and goods between locations in the same country. The Jones act was temporarily suspended recently, in order to facilitate rescue and relief efforts for areas damaged by hurricane Irma. When the Jones Act comes up for discussion, a lively debate is renewed about the relative benefits and costs of restricting maritime transportation in this fashion. For a fun and different take on the many unexpected ways the Jones Act can affect our lives and the economy, try listening to this podcast from the folks at Planet Money.