Maritime law has been one of the most important pillars of Louisiana trade for centuries. Many regulations are placed on the fleet to make trade and commerce as smooth as possible. While the United States’ ships and vessels that travel outside of the territorial waters bearing the American flag have their own set of maritime laws, internal trade and commerce are also subjected to such laws.

Cabotage laws are the set of maritime laws that apply to all vessels that travel along the coastal routes. It may also refer to the laws applicable to the ships traveling inside the territory of the United States from one port to another. The most important and widely applicable cabotage law in the U.S. is The Jones Act. The Jones Act essentially refers to Section 27 under the Merchant Marine Act. Under this law, only American vessels that bear an American flag and are also owned by a U.S. citizen carrying mariners, who are U.S. citizens that can conduct trade and commerce via the sea route in the coastal area within the jurisdiction of the United States of America.

Even though the Jones Act was established in the 1920s, the set of provisions under Section 27 are still some of the most relevant maritime laws for trade and commerce. It is evidenced by the fact that most vessels are still guided by the provisions of the Jones Act. Cabotage laws, in essence, hold the key to maritime economy and security. Other cabotage laws may include provisions for passenger ships and salvage, including seafarers’ safety provisions.

The Jones Act has been criticized by many for being monopolistic. The Jones Act has often been criticized for wrongfully eliminating foreign competition from the domestic marine trade and commerce. The Act has been chastised for adding cost to the consumer due to a monopoly on pricing. However, supporters of the Jones Act state that the laws are critical for national security.

Source: AmericanMaritime.org, “The Jones Act – The Foundation of The Merchant Marine,” accessed on Sept. 26, 2014