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Law leads to fewer ships in ports

The sight of salties arriving at the Duluth-Superior port may become less frequent after a Canadian action on the so-called "cabotage law" was initiated by the Seafarers Union.

Agreements of trade with Europe, to avoid cabotage laws, included issuing green cards to foreign crews, according to the February and March logs of the Seafarer's International Union. (Google: Cabotage-SIU-COURT)

Because of a court ruling, a domestic-based seamen must be used as a crew member on any foreign vessel within all domestic waterways.

The St. Lawrence Seaway is an inland water domestic waterway subject to cabotage laws in the U.S. (the Jones Act of 1920.)

Because saltwater is more buoyant than fresh water, plimsoll marks on the sides of ships denote load buoyancy and center of gravity. Ships must offload some cargo to traverse the seaway and take on cargo to sail the ocean to get a full paying cargo. This process makes the major uploading port an additional port subject to rules of cabotage.

My dad, the late Capt. Davy Jones of gun-running fame in 1950 aboard American Hans Isbrandtsen's steamship, the SS Flying Arrow, was a vice president for Maersk's A.P. Moller Group in this area. This group is a seagoing Danish family of ship owners that now operates the world's largest containers and bulk system through 374 offices in 116 countries. It employs more than 7,000 seafarers and 25,000 land-based people. Ships seen in Duluth with a red maple leaf and the letter "F" are part of this group.

Dad always said, "Duluth can only generate two cargos. At the same time, a saltwater port generates three cargos with less expense and hassle. Duluth doesn't pay."

I expect ship owners may choose to look elsewhere for their cargos — and that there'll be fewer ships to watch in the Twin Ports as a result.