Cargo Preference


The nation's cargo preference rules go back to the Cargo Preference Act of 1954. The idea then, as it is now, was that some or most government-impelled cargo should be carried by U.S.-flag ships, owned and crewed by Americans. 

Today the requirement is that 50% of these cargoes are carried in U.S. ships, subject to availability and other conditions. 

Routinely evaded and sometime attacked, Ship American rules for government cargoes are like Buy American rules for government purchasing.

The latest attack comes as part of the Ukrainian supplemental funding bill in May of 2022, associated with the Ukraine-Russian war. 

The San Francisco Maritime Trades Port Council adopted the following resolution denouncing the effort of just two senators to subvert the cargo preference rules, part of the nation's maritime cabotage system. 









WHEREAS, the San Francisco Ports Council of the Maritime Trades Department, AFL-CIO has steadfastly fought to improve the wages, working conditions of U.S. maritime workers and to maintain the legal foundations that support the U.S. Merchant Marine as a source of working-class jobs, good benefits, and more broadly the economic prosperity and security of the nation, and;


WHEREAS, chief among these legal foundations is the Jones Act, the Maritime Security Program, and the Ship American or cargo preference rules, which together form a maritime cabotage system that is the envy of the world, and;


WHEREAS, the U.S. Senate is now considering amendments to the second Ukrainian supplemental aid bill, a small part of which in Concurrent Resolutions 37 and 38 authored by Senators Joni Ernst and Chris Coons) would broadly waive the cargo preference requirements of worldwide food relief available under America’s Food for Peace Program (PL-480), and;


WHEREAS, the cargo preference waivers are unnecessary since waivers are already available within existing law, and;


WHEREAS, the waivers overly broad as crafted to apply to all markets not just the Ukraine affected markets, as well as open-ended since there is either an arbitrary indefinite or three-year of applicability, and;


WHEREAS, the cargo preference waivers will allow foreign-flag, foreign-crewed ships to move U.S. taxpayer funded cargo to the diminishment and detriment of U.S. shipping and U.S. sailors which is to betray an industry and a workforce that existed from the outset of the nation, and;


NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the San Francisco Maritime Trades Ports Council herewith opposes Senate Concurrent Resolutions 37 and 38 in the Ukrainian supplemental funding legislation and any subversion of U.S. cargo preference law, and;


BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Council calls instead for a Congressional affirmation of the nation’s Merchant Marine and the underlying cabotage laws that connect American prosperity and charity programs with good jobs for American mariners and maritime workers, and;


BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the Council will communicate this message to MTD Headquarters, to other Port Councils, the U.S. House of Representatives, and the U.S. Senate and in particular the California Senators Diane Feinstein and Alex Padilla.