Awareness of Jones Act leads to call for reform

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A new Hawaii Business survey echoes prior polls showing the 1920 federal maritime law fares best when operating in the shadows

A new survey commissioned by Hawaii Business magazine shows more people in Hawaii know about the Jones Act than two years ago, and among those who know, most would like to see the 1920 maritime law scrapped or modified.


Editor Steve Petranik reported last week that the magazine polled 396 Hawaii business leaders and 444 members of the general public to share their thoughts on pressing issues. The complete results of the survey will be available in the publication’s August edition.

Asked about the Jones Act, 55% of the business leaders and 41% of the public said they were familiar with the act, which limits shipping competition between U.S. ports, including Hawaii. Two years earlier, when the magazine asked the same question of 404 business executives and 482 members of the general public, the numbers were 49% and 38%, respectively.

In the new survey, respondents familiar with the Jones Act were then asked whether it should be “scrapped entirely,” modified or left unchanged.

Among business executives, 32% favored scrapping the law entirely while 57% selected “modify.” Only 10% said the law should “remain unchanged.”

Among the public respondents, 38% favored scrapping it entirely, 49% said to modify it and only 13% said it should remain unchanged.

In 2020, the numbers among business executives were 33% scrapped, 49% modified and 12% unchanged; among public respondents, 33% scrapped, 52% modified and 13% unchanged.

The results of both Hawaii Business polls are similar to the one commissioned by the institute in 2021 that asked virtually the same questions of almost 1,000 residents statewide. In that poll, of the 43% who said they were familiar with the Jones Act, almost seven out of 10 — 67% — said the protectionist federal shipping law should be either scrapped or modified to some extent.

Keli‘i Akina, institute president and CEO, said at the time that the results should be a wake-up call to Hawaii politicians who support the Jones Act.

“If the results of this survey are any indication,” he said, “they should be reassessing their positions to be more in step with their constituents. Further, as more people learn about the Jones Act, the wave in favor of reform will get even bigger. So lawmakers might wish to take a leadership role now in reforming the Jones Act for the benefit of Hawaii.”

To read more about the Hawaii Business survey, go here.




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