U.S. Rep. Charles Djou’s suggestion that a federal maritime law that protects the domestic shipping industry be waived to help with the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was criticized by his colleagues in the state’s congressional delegation.
Republican Djou urged President Obama to waive the law known as the Jones Act so more foreign ships could help contain the devastating British Petroleum oil spill. The law requires ships that move cargo between U.S. ports be U.S.-flagged and crewed.
The Obama administration has said that 15 foreign-flagged vessels are already helping with the emergency response in the gulf without waivers. The administration has said a streamlined process is available if waivers are necessary.
"I agree with the president that our nation’s top priority in addressing the gulf accident is to stop the leak, clean up the mess and hold BP accountable," Djou said in a statement.
"I am disappointed, however, that the president has failed to waive the Jones Act for foreign ships, who want to assist in the cleanup efforts. There is no good reason to turn away international help in responding to this environmental catastrophe."
U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, a Democrat, said Djou was incorrect in claiming that the Jones Act was preventing foreign help in the gulf.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye said Djou’s comments are more about politics than emergency response.
Djou said he believes the Jones Act, by closing off foreign competition, has increased the cost of goods and services in Hawaii. He plans to offer legislation to create a Hawaii exemption to the law. Ed Case, when he served in the U.S. House, proposed a similar exemption bill that was opposed by Inouye and others in the state’s congressional delegation. Case’s bill failed to advance.
"To suggest that we suspend the Jones Act to allow foreign ships into the gulf is more about pushing a political agenda than any genuine interest in helping Gulf Coast communities with their cleanup," Inouye said in a statement. "We are already at the mercy of foreign competitors when it comes to oil; we should not add shipping to that list."