Great Lakes Shippers Concerned By Amendment To Keystone XL Bill

Provision Would Allow Non-U.S. Freighters To Ship Cargo Between U.S. Ports

A Dutch freighter making its way through the Soo Locks in Michigan. Photo: Rachel Kramer (CC-BY).

An amendment to a bill that would approve construction of the Keystone XL pipeline is causing a stir among members of the Great Lakes shipping community.

Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain has filed an amendment to repeal the Jones Act, which allows only U.S.-built ships to carry cargo between U.S. ports. McCain said in a release that the law hinders free trade and raises prices for consumers due to shipping costs.

Members of a Great Lakes labor and management coalition say the move would hurt the U.S. shipping industry. Tom Curelli is with the Great Lakes Maritime Task Force and is operations director for Superior’s Fraser Shipyards. Curelli said a repeal may mean more Canadian competition and fewer U.S. jobs.

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“For every trip they take, that’s one less trip for our vessels to operate on. When you remove enough trips and enough tonnage, you tie up the U.S. flag vessels and you don’t put them to work,” said Curelli.

Curelli said around 1,500 jobs may be affected in the Twin Ports and roughly 60,000 across the Great Lakes.

A McCain spokeswoman says the senator was unavailable for comment.