JACKSONVILLE, FLORIDA-- The El Faro cargo ship disappeared last week after the vessel lost all engine power while it was caught in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin. We can't help but wonder: why was this geezer of a ship, built in 1975, still on the water at four times the average age of container ships?
Shipping routes between two U.S. ports are regulated by the Jones Act, also known as the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which gave injured sailors the right to make claims and collect from their employers.
The cabotage regulation also protected U.S. shipping corporations from foreign competitors by requiring ships that transport goods or passengers between two U.S. ports be built in the U.S., be owned by a U.S. citizen and be operated by a U.S. crew. In other words, it's really expensive to build and maintain these ships, which jacks up the cost of shipping between U.S. ports.
We don't deliver pizzas in gas guzzling 1975 Cadillacs when we have the option to drive a Prius. And we sure as heck wouldn't want to fly in a plane that is 40 years old. So why was El Faro was still on the water? And whose interest does the Jones Act protect today?
The El Faro was en route from from Jacksonville, Florida to Puerto Rico. Search teams have recovered debris from the missing ship, but there are no signs yet of the 33-member crew.
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