The highly customized vessels that operate between U.S. ports are built specifically for the unique trade that they operate in. The vessels lead the world in both safety and technological advancements. More importantly, U.S.-built vessels are subject to strict safety regulations. So to imply that vessels that do not have to observe rigorous U.S. safety standards are safer than those that do defies common sense.
Maybe the best way to save the Jones Act and domestic shipbuilding would be to stop bragging and start to look at why it cost 2-3 time more to build a ship in US yards than to build the same ship with the same machinery and equipment and to meet the same standard of safety at a shipyard in Japan or South Korea.
To claim that US ships are designed and built to a higher standard than others is plainly not true. USCG rules are generally based on IMO requirements minimum standard and Class requirement are similar for all major classification societies. To believe otherwise, or to claim that foreign built ships are less safe then those built at US yards is just kidding yourself.
Those of you who have worked on foreign built Ocean-going ships, OSVs or Rigs can maybe enlighten those who hasn't.
The claim that the cost is because of the high labour cost and safety standard in US yards, while "them for'ners" are working for a "handful of rice" and in unsafe conditions is also manifestly not true. Simple container ships, bulkers and tankers are still being built in countries like Japan and South Korea, although China is taking over more of this business. Top of the line Offshore and other specialized vessels are built in Norway, (nobody in their right mind will claim that Norway is a low-cost taxhaven with lax safety standard)in Holland and Germany.
Admittedly the hulls are mostly built in East European countries, where labour cost is less, but still not slave wages.
The LNG Container ships being built in San Diego are being lauded as proof of US shipbuilding and design superiority.
The fact is thatis actually built to a standard DMSE design The main machinery are MAN B&W but manufactured in South Korea: http://www.lngworldshipping.com/news/view,introducing-the-worlds-first-lngpowered-container-ship_39075.htm
So what make them Jones Act compliant? The work of putting them together and the steel (if not imported from China)? I wouldn't be surprised if the navigation equipment is supplied by Furuno and the GMDSS station by Sailor. What is left then that is domestic?
PS> The same applies to the Product Tankers being built at now Philly Shipyard: http://www.phillyshipyard.com/news.cfm?path=1,229&id=3-1602
Maybe it would make more sense to put pressure on the few yards that is still in operation to modernize their equipment and building methods to compete with foreign yards on price, quality and design.
The age profile of the US fleet, Jones act or otherwise, is telling you that there must be a potentially large market for new shipbuilding for the US market, but as long as they can go on charging unsustainable costs and Owners are forced to pay, there will be no improvement in any of the above.
For those of you working on rigs in deep water GOM; How many US built and flagged rigs are there out there? Where does the equipment on them originate from, incl. on the drill floor?
The same questions can be asked for the "state of the art" Sub-sea Construction vessel working in deep water GOM, or the Heavy Lift Crane vessel (SSCV), the Seismic vessels and just about anything else that is able work there, except simple PSVs.
There are some development towards building high end Offshore vessels in the US, but to foreign design and with foreign equipment, which may be the way to go to improve the capability of US yard.
Eventually they MAY be able to compete with own design and US made equipment, but not as long as they can hide behind a protective barrier that enable them to charge whatever the captive market is willing to pay, and keep on building the same old-same old.
Many countries regulate domestic shipping and require that port to port transport is by ships owned, flagged and manned by locals. Locally built vessels are encourage, but OECD rules (and EU rules in case of Europe) prohibit such protective barriers, as well as subsidies over and above certain limits set by OECD.
I don't advocate removing the Jones Act altogether, but maybe modify it to where it would encourage US flagged vessel in both domestic and foreign going trade and US shipbuilding to supply those vessels at competitive costs. At one time US shipyard built vessels for the world, not just for a minuscule captive market. Why not again??
The idea that if ANYTHING is changed in the Jones Act, US shipping is doomed and US seafarers cannot find work is not necessarily true, even if it is repeated many enough times.
In worst case there is a shortage of qualified seafarers world wide and many flags allow foreign officers, incl. Masters, as long as they hold COC that is internationally recognized. (IMO STCW compliant) Wages and conditions may vary from company to company, but some foreign owners may offer better terms than what you can expect from US owners.