Lee Aims to End Antiquated Jones Act

January 25, 2024

WASHINGTON – To address the longstanding challenges posed by the Jones Act, Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced two bills: the Open America’s Waters Act and the Protecting Access to American Products Act. These bills represent a comprehensive approach to alleviating the burdens American consumers, businesses, and communities face due to antiquated World War I-era regulations.


Enacted in 1920, the Jones Act, formally known as the Merchant Marine Act, imposes stringent requirements on vessels engaged in domestic maritime trade, mandating that all goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on vessels constructed in the U.S., registered in the U.S., owned by U.S. citizens, and crewed primarily by U.S. citizens. While initially intended to bolster national security efforts in the aftermath of World War I, the Jones Act's inflexible provisions have led to significant costs and unintended consequences.


The Open America’s Waters Act seeks to repeal the cabotage requirements of the Jones Act, allowing all vessels that meet U.S. legal standards to engage in domestic trade between U.S. ports. By fostering competition and reducing barriers to entry, this legislation aims to enhance economic efficiency, reduce costs for American families, and promote a more dynamic maritime sector.


The Protecting Access to American Products Act would establish a framework for waiving certain Jones Act requirements under specified circumstances, such as when no Jones Act-compliant vessel is available for transporting particular goods. This provision would provide much-needed flexibility and ensure continued access to essential products, including liquefied natural gas (LNG).


Under the proposed legislation, federal agencies would be required to promptly review waiver applications and make determinations within 60 days. Approved waivers could be granted for a minimum of 30 days, with the option of extension for additional periods, ensuring timely and efficient responses to emerging needs.


Senator Lee's dual legislative efforts underscore a commitment to addressing the root causes of rising prices and economic stagnation,  and to fostering a more resilient and competitive maritime industry. By modernizing U.S. maritime policies and streamlining regulatory processes, these bills aim to unleash new opportunities for economic growth.


  • For a one-pager on Sen. Lee’s Open America’s Waters Act, click HERE.
  • For a one-pager on Sen. Lee’s Protecting Access to American Products Act, click HERE.
  • For Open America’s Waters Act bill text, click HERE.
  • For Protecting Access to American Products Act bill text, click HERE