Jones Act

The Jones Act, as it’s commonly known, is part of the Merchant Shipping Act of 1920, 41 Stat. 988 (1920).

The act was sponsored by Senator Wesley R. Jones, from Washington State, which is how it acquired its name. The act has been amended numerous times and in addition to shipping regulations, also provides a negligence cause of action for seafarers against their employers, similar to the Federal Employers Liability Act governing railroad workers. Section 27 of the act that related to coastwise shipping regulation sets standards for vessels transporting goods between ports of the United States. In addition to the 50 states, Puerto Rico and other United States territories are covered at least in some part by this law.

There are four main requirements for vessels carrying goods between ports of the United States. The vessels must be:

  • owned by United States companies that are controlled by United States citizens with at least 75 percent United States percent ownership;
  • at least 75 percent crewed by United States citizens;
  • built (or substantially rebuilt) in the United States; and
  • documented in the United States.

These types of requirements for shipping goods within a country are known as cabotage laws and have been enacted in various forms by Congress since the early days of the nation. First Cong., sess. 1, ch. 11, §1 (1789). Over 75% of the countries in the world have some sort of cabotage laws that regulate shipping within the ports of those countries.

Excerpt from “Making Sense of the Jones Act and the Jones Act Waiver for Puerto Rico”, by Michael W. McLeod, Esq. & Lindsey C. Brock III, Esq. of Florida law firm Rumrell McLeod & Brock, PLLC

More Jones Act resources

Transportation Institute: Jones Act

MARAD – Maritime Administration, U.S.-Flag Waterborne Domestic Trade and Related Programs

Propeller Club of Jacksonville Resolution in Support of the Jones Act, Jan. 4, 2018


U.S. Merchant Marine, aka American Merchant Marine
The United States Merchant Marine refers to either United States civilian mariners, or to U.S. civilian and federally owned merchant vessels. Both the civilian mariners and the merchant vessels are managed by a combination of the government and private sectors, and engage in commerce or transportation of goods and services in and out of the navigable waters of the United States. The American Merchant Marine primarily transports cargo and passengers during peacetime; in times of war, the American Merchant Marine can be an auxiliary to the United States Navy, and can be called upon to deliver military personnel and materiel for the military.

Excerpt from “United States Merchant Marine”,

Read more about the American Merchant Marine…