Oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico from the site of the BP oil rig, yet the Obama administration refuses to relax a protectionist U.S. shipping law known as the Jones Act that makes it more difficult for foreign-owned ships to help contain the damage.
According to an article in the Daily Caller this week by our former Cato colleague Chris Moody, foreign-owned ships have offered to assist the American-owned fleet in skimming oil and other tasks. But some of the foreign ships have hesitated to enter U.S. waters because of the 1920 law that reserves inter-coastal shipping to vessels that are built, owned, and crewed by Americans.
Although cloaked in terms of national security, the act is really a protectionist measure designed to insulate U.S.-based shipbuilders, ship operators, and their unionized crews from global competition.
Three GOP senators representing Gulf states have introduced legislation to temporarily suspend the Jones Act in the region of the spill. So far, President Obama has refused to act, despite his assurances that he is doing all he can to contain the damage.