Would decoupling domestic shipping from the international help in a shipping crisis?

Seems like having a domestic fleet sperate from the international system might make domestic shipping somewhat less tightly coupled to international shipping. I was wondering about that the other days but I don’t if it’s the case of not.

Just came across this tweet.

Some of the responses are interesting, which sectors are experiencing supply problems.

Of course many parts for ships are still built overseas but if push came to shove it seems plausible that having U.S. crewed and built ships with the support of shipyards on U.S. waterways would be beneficially in a general shipping crisis.

Seems like it’d be good to have some U.S. flag ships in international trade as well


What good does a Jones Act container ship do in this situation? Every foreign running US Flagged container ship has the same problem as every other one - big backlogs.

If there was an active short sea shipping segment it would help getting boxes out of the larger ports into smaller ones alleviating the concentrated the stress on road, rail and warehousing in those areas.


It’s pretty simple actually- but most often ignored… If we had a series of robust short sea shipping routes, that would lessen the reliance on marshalling-distribution yards and trucks. Economy and efficiency of scale would be greatly improved, movements optimized.

Not to mention being an ecological improvement. This is just one reason why the Jones Act should be reinforced and strengthened- and the development of Short Sea Shipping Programs hastened. This would reduce the volume of cargo being transported over the roads…


All for short sea shipping in the USA. But I would consider allowing owners look elsewhere to at least build the vessels. Sometimes you have to give a little.


I don’t understand this post. Fully agree that robust SSS would be both an economic and environmental asset, but how does it follow that the Jones Act – a huge reason SSS does not exist as it is economically ruinous to such coastwise movements – should be doubled down on? Seems the current dearth of SSS is evidence of the law’s failure.

Your sentiments regarding the Jones Act are noted, but not agreed with. The mere fact that the USG has been one of the biggest obstacles to a successful US Flag Merchant Marine- evidenced by their continued defunding and under-funding of existing laws and programs which would have supported and strengthened the Jones Act.

The continued ignorance of Cargo Preference Laws (for both Military and Agency Cargoes) is another point. The Short Sea Shipping initiative, it’s related funding and obvious success are dependent upon Jones Act compliance and enforcement.

Further, having Foreign Flag vessels trading within even the EEC and OCS presents an extreme National Security risk, one which should not be entertained.

As an outsider looking in it would be a good thing if there was a lot more US flag ships in international trade. The Increased attention of the US navy would make the oceans a far less lawless place. Its been done before.

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National security risk is almost entirely imagined. Foreign ships are already operating in US ports and coastal waters. We get something like 5 million foreign seafarer visits per year with zero terror incidents.

Biggest problem with USG policy vis-a-vis the USMM is the U.S.-built requirement. China makes their ships artificially cheap through subsidies while we make ours artificially more expensive. It’s absolute insanity. SSS doesn’t need funding, it needs the repeal of such counterproductive policy. Efficient ports would be hugely helpful as well, as would reform (scrapping?) of the HMT.

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Presume you are referring to the EEZ under UNCLOS, which is not territorial waters and open for free passage by ships of all nation. (AKA “Freedom of Navigation”)

Innocent passage in straits within territorial water that is internationally recognized as navigation lanes are also allowed. (I.e Straits of Hormuz, Singapore Strait, Gibraltar Strait etc)

OCS (Outer Continental Shelf) is referring to the seabed, not the waters above.
In some cases countries lay claim to the OCS outside their EEZ but as a general rule it is defined as within the EEZ. (200 n.miles. from base line)

Although US Congress has not ratified the UNCLOS you are a signatory to it and claim your right according to it. (In fact US was one of the instigators to the forming of UNCLOS)

In order to really lay the groundwork for successful short sea shipping infrastructure. There needs to be major leadership from the government side of it. With so many various stakeholders with differing agendas, the government needs to be the one bringing everyone to the table, offering a plan, and offering shipbuilding and infrastructure subsidies. The same goes on the larger scale beyond SSS. To revitalise the US fleet to be competitive, we need to strengthen the JA, put up shipbuilding and ship operating subsidies, fund better training and education, and make leadership in this real a National priority. As it is, trucking, rail, aviation, basically every other transit mode is a higher national priority.

All I’m saying is that when it comes to maritime trade, we need to remember that we should be a shining city on a hill, providing international leadership with the best tech, education, equipment, and commerce. At one point we were the world’s premiere maritime power. We can do that again, we certainly have the trade volume, we just need to get our priorities straight.

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You find something amusing? Just think about a bunch of Foreign Flag vessels with Crews that have not been properly vetted in their own country- plying our intercoastal waters… The absence of real personnel security vetting and assessment amongst foreign flag seamen is a well known (and documented) fact…
Wouldn’t want these individuals plying any part of our waters- why do you think all vessels have to Notice of Arrivals in the time frame that is required…

Yes, your complete disdain for the majority of seafarers and vessels in this world. It’s pretty sad you think all foreign flagged vessels are a threat to the USA.

Not about this situation in particular but a shipping crisis in general. The example in the OP is about parts for trucks and rail.

International ocean shipping and coastwise shipping are one system is some ways, but separate systems in other ways. For example both systems use containers but each system has different sources for ships and crew.

The separate source of crew might matter in a general world-wide strike by mariners or a shortage of parts might also effect each sector differently.

Actually … NO, they don’t.

On the west coast the PMA has granted ‘priority’ berthing to US Flag vessels. The Jones Act ships sail right by everyone at anchor and go straight to their berth.

No waiting.

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Well it hasn’t worked out that way in Savannah.

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Then your port authorities should be sitting down with industry and Feds. The west coast model is in the best interests of Americans.

But they are actively engaged with JA ships to Hawaii and Alaska


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Would you or Cato be amenable to subsidies for US shipbuilders? We can’t compete with China, Japan, or S Korea on pricing in a free market scenario. If not subsidized I would be worried about losing what little large ship capability we still possess. Not asking to be argumentative, just curious. I need to do some DD into why we are so expensive versus other nations, be it labor costs, etc. There is a large backlog at all the foreign yards with complex LNG ships and container ship orderbook quite large and occupying most capacity for the next 2-3 years. Would be great to have more American production but Philly and NASSCO are backed up too, from my understanding.