Many Americans don't regularly encounter a tugboat, towboat or barge in their daily lives. But these vessels quietly navigate America's rivers, coasts and Great Lakes, safely and efficiently moving over 760 million tons of commodities every year that drive our nation's economy.
In the process, they support over 300,000 jobs--nearly half of the 650,000 jobs supported by the U.S. maritime industry as a whole.
Even less well-known is the extent to which these vessels that deliver fuel for our homes and cars, building materials for our towns and roads and food for our tables, are also critical to keeping our nation safe.
The tugboat, towboat and barge industry regularly supports Defense Department logistics needs, moving cargo to support military readiness including ground vehicles, bulk jet fuel and marine diesel fuel. The Navy's larger ships, while formidable in battle, are not designed to turn on a dime or maneuver through busy ports on their own--they require tugboats to perform ship-assist maneuvers to help push, pull and guide them into port safely.
And, as the recent Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments study, "Strengthening the U.S. Defense Maritime Industrial Base," notes, the domestic commercial vessel fleet serves as the largest source of mariners for U.S. surge sealift operations. None of this critical logistical support should be outsourced to foreign entities.
The crews operating domestic commercial vessels are also proven, reliable partners in support of the U.S. Coast Guard's homeland security mission. These mariners are deeply familiar with their operating environments and the Coast Guard counts on them to serve as "eyes and ears" and report suspicious activity on the waterways. In addition to seeing something and saying something, these mariners also act to save lives--from rescuing passengers and crews from vessels in distress to helping evacuate 500,000 people from Manhattan in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the largest maritime evacuation since Dunkirk.
The tugboat, towboat and barge industry is able to make these contributions because of the Jones Act, the law requiring that cargo shipped between U.S. ports be transported on vessels that are American-built, American-owned and American-crewed. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Jones Act in its modern form. Similar policies have existed since our nation's founding. Yet a few vocal critics of this commonsense law seek to make this the year...