On The Issues
U.S. Jones Act
Kai is a staunch supporter of the Jones Act because it is an important economic and national security law. The law ensures goods transported from U.S. point to U.S. point be transported on vessels that are American crewed, built, and owned. In Hawai‘i, the Jones Act industry supports 13,000 jobs for Hawai‘i families and delivers $787 million in annual workforce income. It has a $3.3 billion economic impact on the local economy.
The Jones Act supports U.S. shipyards and repair facilities and keeps U.S. mariners trained and employed. It is critical that we maintain enough shipbuilding capacity and maintenance capability to support a domestic merchant fleet. In times of war or national emergency, we must rely on our own supply chain and trained labor force to quickly ramp up production of ships and vessels. If the Jones Act were repealed, we would lose vital American shipbuilding jobs and risk becoming reliant on foreign shipyards.
The Jones Act plays a critical role in support of U.S. national security, which is why every president since President Reagan has supported it. Eliminating the Jones Act would allow foreign-built ships to operate in our domestic trade, which only rewards countries like China at the expense of U.S. businesses and jobs. In the same way that our country does not allow foreign air carriers to service U.S. domestic flights, the Jones Act ensures that goods transported between American ports are transported on vessels that are American crewed, built, and owned. Jones Act carriers provide a reserve force of well-trained seafarers who in times of national emergency can crew reserve sealift vessels, while ensuring the United States does not need to rely on foreign carriers to move people and military assets. This is a commonsense law that is critical to our national security and helps sustain a fleet of vessels that can provide reliable trade of goods to Hawai‘i.
In response to criticisms that the Jones Act increases the cost of living and raises the price of doing business in Hawai‘i, a comprehensive Jones Act study (published July 2020) conducted by economists from Boston-based Reeve and Associates and Hawai‘i-based TZ Economics concludes that the Jones Act has no significant impact on the cost of living in Hawaiʻi. A market basket study of 200 consumer goods purchased from major retailers such as Costco, Home Depot, Target and Walmart found no significant difference in the price of consumer goods in Hawai‘i versus California; 142 out of 200 items (71%) were precisely the same in stores in Hawai‘i as they were in California. In some cases, retail prices of goods were cheaper in Hawai‘i. Furthermore, while Hawaiʻi does have a high cost of living, that cost is primarily driven by housing expenses and other factors, not the type of consumer goods carried to Hawai‘i by Jones Act carriers.
For these reasons, the Jones Act is vital to Hawai‘i, vital to our country and vital to our national defense. Doing anything to repeal or exempt the Jones Act will kill American jobs and put our national security at risk.