At the beginning of December U.S. President Donald Trump has signed a waiver for a 80.5 metre fishing vessel stuck in a Washington state shipyard because it was built with too much foreign steel. The Seattle Times reports the president on Tuesday signed legislation that includes a federal maritime law waiver for the $75 million ship, America’s Finest. The vessel’s owner, Kirkland-based Fishermen’s Finest, contracted with Anacortes-based Dakota Creek Industries, but the construction shipyard violated the federal Jones Act because its hull steel was cut and bent in Holland and not in the United States. Dakota Creek shipyard officials have said they didn’t realize the overseas work was extensive enough to violate the law. The legislation offers a kind of conditional waiver, authorizing U.S. Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to revoke the waiver should an investigation determine the violation was intentional.

The Jones Act, also known as The Merchant Marine Act, was introduced by Senator Wesley Jones in 1920 to protect cabotage and requires that all goods transported by water between U.S. ports be carried on U.S. flag ships, constructed in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed by U.S. citizens and U.S. permanent residents.

This act was probably sensible at its time of introduction but is surely now outdated. In recent years non U.S. flagged cruise ships on voyages to Hawaii from West Coast ports have had to sail on to Kiribati (2 days each way) in order that the cruise can be classed as international.

It is surely now time for a change.

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