Heather Isringhausen Gvillo Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm

U.S. Senator John McCain recently introduced an amendment to repeal certain restrictions of the Jones Act, a legislation popular in the Madison County Circuit Court due to its close proximity to the Mississippi River.

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, requires that all goods shipped between waterborne ports of the U.S. be carried by vessels built in the U.S. that are owned and operated by Americans.

In connection to the Keystone Pipeline bill, McCain’s Jan. 13 amendment seeks to issue an endorsement allowing a vessel that qualifies under U.S. laws by meeting safety and security requirements to engage in the “coast-wide” trade, regardless of its origins or nationality.

“I have long advocated for a full repeal of the Jones Act, an antiquated law that has far too long hindered free trade, made U.S. industry less competitive and raised prices for American consumers,” McCain stated in a press release.

“The amendment I am introducing against today would eliminate this unnecessary, protectionist restriction,” he added. “According to the Congressional Research Service, it costs $6 per barrel to move crude from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast United States on a Jones Act tanker, while a foreign-flag tanker can take that same crude to a refinery in Canada for $2 per barrel – taking money directly out of the pockets of American consumers. I hope my colleagues will join in this important effort to repeal this archaic legislation to spur job creation and promote free trade.”

In a blog post for The Hill, Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.) opposes the suggested amendment, saying it would “undermine our domestic maritime industry and threaten the more than 400,000 jobs it supports nationwide,” and would “stifle” shipbuilding progress and economic benefits.

“A strong domestic shipyard base helps support strategic sealift requirement and Navy shipbuilding while ensuring that U.S. ports are free from foreign influence,” she added.

McCain’s endorsement could affect claims brought in the Madison County Circuit Court. Because Madison County borders the Mississippi River, lawsuits involving the Jones Act fulfill a large number of cases filed locally.

In fact, in a lawsuit filed earlier this month, plaintiff William Martin alleges he was employed by SCF Lewis & Clark Fleeting, LLC, on the Mississippi River as a deckhand on the M/V Allison Rachel, a vessel constructed to transport persons or goods across the water. In other words, Martin was employed as a seaman within the meaning of the Jones Act.

In his lawsuit, Martin alleges the defendant breached the duties imposed by the Jones Act by failing to provide the plaintiff and his co-employees with adequate training and proper tools to perform their duties in safety. The defendant is also accused of failing to inspect the work area for hazards, causing Martin to allegedly sustain injuries to his back.

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