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Resolution seeks exemption from US-build shipping rule

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SEN. Frank Blas wants to find ways to help the island save money when it comes to shipping goods to or from Guam. He has introduced a resolution asking Guam Delegate to Congress Madeleine Z. Bordallo to exempt Guam, Puerto Rico, Hawaii and Alaska from the U.S.-build provision of the Maritime Shipping Laws, commonly known as the Jones Act.

According to Blas, at least 95 percent of products are shipped to Guam via ocean vessels, and lower shipping costs would result in lower costs per product for island consumers.

“What the exemption from the provision will provide is the opportunity for shippers to buy ships that are more fuel-efficient at a much lower cost than being able to buy a ship from a builder in the United States,” Blas said, adding the savings could be passed on to the consumers.

According to the resolution, by repealing the Jones Act, some $656 million in savings could be realized for the overall U.S. economy.

History

The Jones Act was established in the 1920s right after World War I. At the time, there was concern about German U-boats and the vulnerability of U.S. ports to foreign military ships.

“Back in the 1920s, of course, utilizing ships between the sea ports was probably the most economical way to do things. But fast forward to 2012, a lot of the concerns that they have with regard to foreign vessels have changed. It’s no longer necessary to be able to continue to have these kinds of laws,” Blas said.

In 2010, Blas said Sen. John McCain already introduced legislation to repeal the Jones Act for the territories as well as Alaska and Hawaii, “because he saw it really doesn’t help any of us.”

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