Maui News

Lawmakers Seek Exemption for Hawaiʻi from Jones Act

February 24, 2015, 1:29 PM HST
* Updated February 24, 1:31 PM
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Neighbor Island barge shipment file photo by Wendy Osher.

Neighbor Island barge shipment file photo by Wendy Osher.

By Maui Now Staff

Several Hawaiʻi lawmakers joined forces in filing concurrent resolutions seeking an exemption for Hawaiʻi from the Jones Act, which sets guidelines for engaging in trade between US ports and requires that all vessels be built in the US.

The resolutions urge Congress to exempt Hawaiʻi from the domestic build requirement.

Supporters of the resolutions say the Act in its current form creates a restrictive impact on the market for shipping goods to Hawaiʻi.  The bipartisan resolutions, supporters say, are intended to positively impact the cost of living for residents in the state.

“It is time for our US Congress to address the role that the antiquated Jones Act plays in the high cost of living,” said state Senator Sam Slom in a press release statement today.  Slom, who filed the Senate resolutions on Friday said, “I am grateful that so many of my colleagues in both the Senate and the House see that an exemption to the US build requirement can make a huge difference in what we here in Hawaiʻi pay for goods.”

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State Senator Gil Keith-Agaran of Maui was among a list of lawmakers who co-sponsored the Senate resolutions (SR10 and SCR34).  Companion resolutions, HR21 and HCR46, were filed in the state House as well.

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“The Jones Act was originally meant to protect the shipping industry and maritime trade, but almost a century has gone by and it’s easy to see that the law does not serve its original purpose,” said Senator Slom.

He continued saying, “Today, the effect of the Jones Act is that people in Hawaiʻi, Alaska, Puerto Rico and Guam pay significantly more than the rest of the country for everyday necessities. Don’t get fooled though, it is not just these more remote locations as the Jones Act also adds to the cost of goods and oil for lower 48 states.”

Supporters of the resolutions say Hawaiʻi currently  shoulders much of the cost burden of the Jones Act.

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Hawaiʻi Shippers Council President Mike Hansen also provided comment saying, “The advantage of this reform is new ships built in South Korea and Japan are a fifth the cost of comparable ships built in the US, and that dramatically lower capital cost will lead to greater competition and moderate freight costs by lowering barriers to entry and increasing contestability in the shipping market place.”

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