Monday, June 14, 2010


The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (P.L. 66-261) is a United States Federal statute that regulates maritime commerce in U.S. waters and between U.S. ports.

Section 27, also known as the Jones Act, deals with cabotage (i.e., coastal shipping) and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried in U.S.-flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents. The purpose of the law is to support the U.S. merchant marine industry, but agricultural interests generally oppose it because, they contend, it raises the cost of shipping their goods, making them less competitive with foreign sources.

We learned a simple thing this week: that the BP clean-up effort in the Gulf of Mexico is hampered by the Jones Act. This is a piece of 1920s protectionist legislation, that requires all vessels working in U.S. waters to be American-built, and American-crewed.

So while, for instance, the U.S. Coast Guard can accept such help as three kilometres of containment boom from Canada, they can't accept, and therefore don't ask for, the assistance of high-tech European vessels specifically designed for the task in hand.

Now, an exemption can be granted even to the Jones Act: by executive order, all the way to the top. This was granted, promptly, by the Bush administration, when it was organizing the rescue arrangements that responsible local authorities had failed to provide, at the time of Hurricane Katrina. Which was, incidentally, a vastly larger environmental catastrophe than the piddling oil leak that now commands the news.

This is almost too horrible to check. Standard variety faculty lounge bungling is one thing but if we're refusing foreign assistance including Belgian and Dutch skimmers containing the technology and capacity that we do not currently possess, as a sop to the unions, then isn't that fringing on criminal negligence?

H/T: Carpe Diem

(UPDATE #1):


Four weeks after the nation's worst environmental disaster, the Obama administration saw no need to accept offers of state-of-the-art skimmers, miles of boom or technical assistance from nations around the globe with experience fighting oil spills.

"We'll let BP decide on what expertise they do need," State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid told reporters on May 19. "We are keeping an eye on what supplies we do need. And as we see that our supplies are running low, it may be at that point in time to accept offers from particular governments."

That time has come.

In the past week, the United States submitted its second request to the European Union for any specialized equipment to contain the oil now seeping onto the Gulf of Mexico's marshes and beaches, and it accepted Canada's offer of 9,842 feet of boom. The government is soliciting additional boom and skimmers from nearly two dozen countries and international organizations.

In late May, the administration accepted Mexico's offer of two skimmers and 13,779 feet of boom; a Dutch offer of three sets of Koseq sweeping arms, which attach to the sides of ships and gather oil; and eight skimming systems offered by Norway.

For possessing the smartest people in the world, this administration has failed to heed perhaps the largest domestic lesson learned from the previous administration and which derailed the Bush presidency to the degree that he was, by proxy, voted out of office when the Democrats won back the House and Senate some 14 months later in November of '06.

We don't like to get into arm-chair quarterbacking because often times it makes people appear smarter than they really are, so, instead we'll armchair quarterback on behalf of people who really are smarter than us. With that: Whiskey-Tango-Foxtrot? How the hell could this have happened? The biggest domestic take-away from the Bush administration was totally and completely lost on them.

One would think that at the mere mention of "oil spill", particularly in that region of the country, the smartest people in the world would've immediately gone all hands on deck and would've employed the environmental equivalent of the Powell doctrine, meeting the encroaching oil slick with overwhelming force.

Our initial assessment of this disaster was that the slow response was due as much to overcoming the inertia of the federal government as it was to whomever was in the Oval Office at the time. This latest revelation, however, may alter forever how we view this.

We're real sorry the administration has to deal with tedious and mundane crap like saving the entire Gulf Coast while they're busy transforming America, but sometimes you have to stoop to literal clean-up duty every once in a while.

So this is really what it's like to be governed by a bunch of left-wing academics.


1 comment:

K T Cat said...

A link is on the way.