Jones Act being challenged in federal court, again


A Honolulu attorney is challenging the Jones Act again in federal court.

John Carroll filed the class-action lawsuit Thursday on behalf of seven plaintiffs, including a Hilo businessman, who allege the maritime law, which requires all shipping vessels travelling between U.S. ports to be American-built, -owned -flagged and -manned, encourages shipping monopolies and unfairly inflates prices for Hawaii consumers.

Carroll had lost a legal challenge to the act in 2009, seeking injunctive relief for his clients. A federal court judge dismissed the case, saying he couldn’t prove a direct connection to the financial harm they suffered and the law.

The case will be heard in the U.S. District Court of Hawaii.

Jones Act critics say it causes economic harm to Hawaii, which is particularly dependent on ocean cargo, by limiting shipping to just two companies: Matson and Horizon Lines. That lack of competition leads to higher prices, they argue.

James O’Keefe, one of the plaintiffs, wrote in an affidavit that rising shipping costs, which he partially attributed to limited shipping competition, helped put his Hilo bakery out of business.

“The Jones Act singles out Hawaii for disparate treatment in relation with other states,” the former owner of O’Keefe & Sons Bread Bakers wrote in the affidavit signed in 2009. The bakery went out of business in 2008.