Maritime law makes Hawaii more expensive than other coastal states and territories


Photo from The Associated Press

The United States Congress signed into law the Jones Act in 1920 to protect American shipbuilders and the American shipping industry, according to economics professor Dr. Gale Pooley at BYU-Hawaii. The 99-year-old maritime law has affected the state of Hawaii on the price of goods and student affordability.

Dr Pooley said: “Hawaii bears a disproportionate burden [from] this law because we are so far from other states.


Effects of the Jones Act

The original purpose of the law, according to Dr Pooley, was “…to protect and strengthen this industry [maritime and ship building] for our national defense. We wanted to encourage the construction of ships in the United States with a crew of American citizens, and that probably served its purpose.

According to Dr Pooley, the Jones Act stipulates that if a foreign vessel were to dock in a US port, it would not be permitted to reload and dock in another US port. Dr Pooley said it was basically good for the US shipping industry, but brought the cost burden to a state like Hawaii or a US territory like Puerto Rico.

The act was aimed at both the economic protection and the national defense of the United States. Today, however, “the US military buys from military weapons manufacturers all over the world,” Dr Pooley said.

Dr Pooley showed a Google map of Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, both located in the Caribbean. According to Pooley, the US Virgin Islands are not burdened with the cost of goods compared to Puerto Rico.

“The cost of shipping from Miami to Puerto Rico will cost more.” The key importance, Dr. Pooley described, is how goods are shipped to Hawaii. He said foreign ships can unload in Hawaii, but they won’t be allowed to reload and ship cargo to states like California.


Rising fees for students

Michael Waters, a second-year political science student from Oregon, said, “A lot of things, groceries and daily necessities, are significantly more expensive than in Oregon. The way the economy works, they make more profit by charging higher price and providing less quantity service. While in a competitive market, businesses must accept market prices while remaining profitable.

“So what ends up happening is that the resources we’re spending elsewhere could be put to better use on more shipments to Hawaii. Because there is a monopoly on American ships, that ends up not happening. Resources are not used for their most valuable use.

Gracie Damstedt, a senior biochemistry student from Washington, said, “The environment in Laie is more different than in Honolulu for off-campus housing. The range is $400 to $600. In town it is probably more expensive.

She added, “Food is much more expensive in Hawaii than in Washington because everything has to be shipped here. I just know that I pay more here than at home.