Advertisement
  1. Business

Tampa shipping executives rally around the Jones Act, an old law facing a new challenge

Kelly Hendry, president of Hendry Marine Industries of Tampa, spoke Friday at a news conference at Port Tampa Bay in favor of preserving the Jones Act, a 99-year-old law aimed at strengthening America's domestic shipping industry. Looking on were, from left, Kerri Seke of Overseas Shipholding Group, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, and state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa. RICHARD DANIELSON | Times
Published Mar. 22

TAMPA — There's no question about the impact of shipping on the Tampa Bay area's economy. It's big: 9,520 jobs and $2 billion annually, according to a new report produced for the shipping industry by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

But local shipping executives warned Friday those numbers could shrink if Congress repeals a law that's been on the books for nearly 100 years, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, often called simply the Jones Act. The law was passed after submarine attacks decimated American shipping during World War I and was written to ensure that the nation had a strong merchant marine industry.

The act requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried on ships that are built and registered in the United States, and have U.S. owners and crews. Supporters say these requirements ensure that shipping remains robust domestically and strong enough to ship goods overseas in the event of war.

"We shouldn't take things that are important to our lives for granted," said Samuel Norton, president and CEO of Tampa-based Overseas Shipholding Group, one of several executives who spoke at a news conference at Port Tampa Bay organized by two industry groups, the Florida Maritime Partnership and the American Maritime Partnership.

"Our mission, as the third generation of Hendry family leadership, is to honor, defend, preserve and support this profession and the unique way of life it presents through the 21st century and beyond," said Kelly Hendry, president of Hendry Marine Industries of Tampa. "Though our industry has changed" since 1926, when Hendry's grandfather founded the company, "the one thing that has remained constant is our support for the Jones Act. Without that law, our family-run and employee-owned business and the jobs it has created would not exist."

But critics say what is good for ship companies is bad for consumers. That's because preventing foreign ships from carrying goods between U.S. ports reduces competition, raising shipping costs and prices, they say. In 2017, critics also contended that the Jones Act made getting relief to Puerto Rico harder after Hurricane Maria. In response to an intense public outcry, the Trump administration suspended the act for 10 days to aid relief.

BALANCING ACT: Repealing the Jones Act would help Puerto Rico. But it could hurt Florida.

This month, U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced the latest bill to repeal the Jones Act.

"Restricting trade between U.S. ports is a huge loss for American consumers and producers," Lee said. "It is long past time to repeal the Jones Act entirely so that Alaskans, Hawaiians, and Puerto Ricans aren't forced to pay higher prices for imported goods — and so they rapidly receive the help they need in the wake of natural disasters."

At Friday's news conference, U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg, said he welcomed the chance to stand with workers from "an industry so vital to Tampa Bay, our economy and our national security."

"A strong and diverse maritime industry could not be more important in a state that is virtually surrounded by water," said Crist, who said he would work with the Florida Maritime Partnership "to achieve goals that benefit our economy, our region and our state."

Unlike other speakers, however, he did not mention the Jones Act itself during his remarks. After, Crist said he had a "generally favorable" view of the Jones Act but was aware of the criticisms of the law raised during hurricane relief efforts to Puerto Rico. Asked whether he would support a repeal bill if it came up for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, Crist said, "I'd have to see the bill before I could take a position on it. I haven't seen it."

"I think what these people said today is true," Crist said. "It's important, and it's stood well. Look at what it's done for our maritime economy in Florida and for our country." As for Puerto Rico's shipping problems, he said, "I just want everybody to be treated fairly. Whatever that means is what I'll support."

MORE: Go here for more Business News

Contact Richard Danielson at rdanielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Former WTSP-Ch. 10 news anchor Reginald Roundtree, shown here with his wife Tree, filed a lawsuit Friday against his former employer alleging he was fired because of age discrimination and retaliation. [Times file] WTSP  |  FACEBOOK  |
    The suit comes after a federal agency took no action on age discrimination complaints he had filed.
  2. Guests of the Flying Bridge at the Tradewinds Resort, which is now under new ownership. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Times]
    The new owner says he plans to keep its management and 1,100 employees.
  3. The University of South Florida has earned national accolades for its push to raise graduation rates. Student loan debt in Florida is so crushing that it makes it hard to afford a house.
    Staggering debt loads make it hard to buy a home.
  4. The “nakation” — aka clothing-optional tourism — is becoming one of the fastest-growing segments of the travel industry. Shirking that outer layer at nude beaches and resorts and even on clothing-optional cruises has become the vacation choice du jour for hundreds of thousands of free-spirited Americans. AP Photo/Caleb Jones
    It’s certainly bringing in big bucks in Florida, where the state’s tourism department reports that nude recreation made a $7.4 billion economic impact in the Sunshine State last year.
  5. Bay area gas prices increased by double digits since last week, according to AAA, The Auto Club Group. Pictured is a man in St. Petersburg filling up in 2017. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times (2017)] SHADD, DIRK  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Oil refineries’ seasonal maintenance, as well as wholesale gas prices, pushed prices higher.
  6. Former Morgan Stanley investment broker Ami Forte has been permanently barred from working in the broker-dealer industry as a result of thousands of improper trades that were made in the accounts of Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer during the last months of his life. (AP photo | 2016) TAMARA LUSH  |  Associated Press
    Financial regulators barred brokers Ami Forte and Charles Lawrence as a result of more than 2,800 trades on Roy Speer’s accounts in 2011 and 2011.
  7. A conveyor belt takes bags of food from ghost restaurants to a room where delivery drivers pick up orders at Kitchen United's Chicago location on Aug. 29, 2019. Kitchen United, a start-up that builds kitchen commissaries for restaurants looking to enter new markets through delivery or take-out only, has plans to open 40 more kitchens in cities across the U.S. through 2020. (AP Photo/Teresa Crawford) TERESA CRAWFORD  |  AP
    Owner Michael Kudrna launched the four spinoffs earlier this year in a matter of weeks as he races to keep his Chicago-area business ahead of a growing trend.
  8. Ron Borresen  |  tbt* Cover art for tbt* Top Workplaces 4/11.
    The Times has extended its deadline to nominate the 2020 Top 100 Workplaces.
  9. Casey Cane, chairman of the Pinellas County Housing Finance Authority. Pinellas County
    An inspector general’s report says he also engaged in "unethical behavior'' as a contractor.
  10. [Getty Images] Gettty Images
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement