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  • To Save the Gulf, Send the Jones Act to Davy Jones’ Locker

    Within days of the oil spill, several European nations and thirteen countries in total apparently offered the Obama administration ships to assist in the clean-up of the Gulf. When asked about this, a State Department press spokesman refused to identify any offers of assistance.

    According to one newspaper, European firms could complete the task in four months, rather than an estimated nine months if done only by the U.S. Working with the U.S., the cleanup could be accomplished in three months.  The Belgian firm DEME contends it can clean up the oil with accuracy at a depth of 2,000 meters. Another European firm with capabilities is the Belgian firm Jan De Nul Group. There are also Dutch companies with similar special equipment capable of accelerating cleaning-up the Gulf. The Belgians and the Dutch are also long time NATO allies and as such partners in international security cooperation.

    According to the article, no U.S. companies have the ships which can accomplish this task is because those ships would cost twice as much to build in the U.S. as they do outside the country. This is one adverse impact of the Jones Act, which Congress passed in 1920s. This piece of protectionism has only hampered an anemic American maritime industry.  It also has prevented a quicker response to the oil spill.  European firms do have the expertise to clean up the spill.

    If other nations have the technologies to address this oil spill, then the administration does have the ability to accept their help: in response to Hurricane Katrina, for example, Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff temporarily waived the Jones Act in order to facilitate much-needed transport of oil throughout the country.

    The Jones Act, which is supposedly about protecting jobs, is actually killing jobs.  The jobs of fishermen, people working in tourism and others who live along the Gulf Coast and earn a living there are being severely impacted.  There are also additional private sector jobs which are NOT being created in the United States since the Jones Act effectively prices U.S. based companies out of the ability to be competitive on the competitive global market.

    As we strive to develop new technologies for a cleaner environment at sea, the Jones Act continues to hobble our own capabilities, sometimes with devastating results.

    The Jones Act needs to be waived now in light of this catastrophe and permit those whom we have helped and cooperated with in the past to assist us in our need.  After waiving the Jones Act for the Gulf clean up effort, Congress and the administration should repealing it all together.

    Co-authored by Claude Berube

    UPDATE: A previous version of this post identified Jan De Nul Group as Dutch. They are in fact Belgian.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    57 Responses to To Save the Gulf, Send the Jones Act to Davy Jones’ Locker

    1. Alex, Modesto says:

      But, a clean gulf leaves Obama without anyone's a** to kick. This is a crisis, after all, and they're not about to let it go to waste by simply cleaning up the Gulf as soon as possible.

    2. Chuck Simmins, Roche says:

      Mexico, Canada, Norway and Australia have been publicly cited as assisting in the Gulf leak.

      The BP people have received tens of thousands of offers of assistance, suggestions and such like. Let's give them a little credit for not leaping before they look..

    3. Maegan, Michigan says:

      I honestly believe the reason why the president is not accepting help is his pride and ego. If he accepts help to him that means he is weak and cannot clean it up himself. Sadly he is not the one being affect by this and he needs to put his people first not is pride or huge ego.

    4. James Nearen, Denver says:

      Hire some editors. Two mistakes in this one-page article.

    5. dave, dayton says:

      Alex, well said!!!!

    6. Jeanne Stotler, wood says:

      Why have costly studies when the solution is easy in the beginning, I saw a demo of how straw works. Bales of straw could have absorbed the oil in the beginning, there are other methods as easy. Our gov't. postponed all these so they could conduct expensive studies about the effects on ecology. Well the studies have had a caustic effect on ecology and are going to cost greatly in the effect on wildlife and marsh growth, sea life and the fish and shrimp industries. An old adage comes to mind, Penny wise,. dollar foolish.

    7. Drew Page, IL says:

      Well, what's the real story here? Has the U.S. turned down offers of help from other countries or not? Has BP turned down such offers of help? Has BP accepted offers of help from other countries with the government saying no?

      Unlike congress and our president, before commenting on the Jones Act, we all probably ought to read it.

    8. Dean, Tulsa, Oklahom says:

      Excerpt from Wikipedia on the Jones Act:

      "The Shipping Act also has support from the domestic airline, trucking, and rail industries – as these industries appreciate not having to compete with a lower cost U.S. to U.S. sea transport that could be provided by foreign flagged vessels."

      See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merchant_Marine_Act_

    9. Bill, Kansas City says:

      It has nothing to do with Obama's ego, it has everything to do with creating a crisis, so his Crap and Tax plan will pass.

    10. Nico, Belgium says:

      Just a correction: Jan De Nul Group is Belgian, not Dutch.

    11. Nick, Los Angeles says:

      Why would Soetoro want to clean up the oil spill? He hates the US and can keep blaming Bush to divert attention away from his attempt to socialize the country.

    12. Bryan says:

      I won't go on and on about this, but doesn't oil float? Isn't this the problem? So, duh! How many Honey Bucket sucker trucks can we fit on the deck of a super tanker?

      "Suck and spit."

      Suck the sludge, (It is kind of the same consistency) and spit it out into the cargo hold.

      Are you telling me we don't have any of these trucks out of business on the coast? No tourism right? Employ these guys.

      Also, we have fishing boats out of work. Replace the nets with absorbent buoy things. Line them up, and lets corral this sludge. The smaller vessels bring the oil back to the sucker tankers.

    13. Peter, New York says:

      The president wants this to remain a crisis as long as possible. The quicker they clean this up, the worse it is for him to pass his Left agenda.

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    15. John Waterhouse, Sea says:

      Anyone who believes that the President is delaying a fix to the oil blowout is seriously misinformed. The Jones Act has not prevented equipment from being used. Working in deep water is always challenging and there are NO simple answers to complex challenges.

    16. Keith, the Bayou says:

      Gee, well thought out article. Too bad it is wrooooong. The oil skimming & cleanup you describe is not covered by the Jones Act. In fact there re a bunch of foreign boats out there, including the one that is shooting the video of the work on the bottom.

      Don't you people ever check your facts? The Jones Act is the reason that the first boat was on the scene, American boat with American crews saving American lives. sorry if that doesn't fit your view of the world.

    17. Dan The man says:

      This article says abolish the Jones act yet does not get into the meat of why. It only gives the current Obama caused emergency as a valid reason. It says that jobs are lost and Americans are not competitive with other countries but goes into no detail about why or what part of the act is prohibitive and detrimental.

    18. tom, annapolis says:

      obama relishes the oil spill tragedy because of the hardship,tragedy and damage it is causing to America. There is no provision in his communist agenda that authorizes him to act in the best interest of America. Hopefully, there will be enough sensible voters ready to vote him out or pressure congress to initiate an impeachment action against him.

      Additionally, vote out every socialist democrat as well.

    19. Paul Washington, DC says:

      Peter from NY, moron. Bill from KC, moron. Dean from Tulsa, simple. Alex from Modesto and Dave his honey from Dayton, morons. Meagan from MI, come on down and join the moron group.

      The Jones Act is indeed protectionist. Unions indeed support it. Industry supports too. It not only protects the maritime industry it protects the rail industry. It protects our infrastructure.

      It is a valid argument to condemn protectionism just as it is to support it. In the end the support for keeping an industrial base has been proven time and time again. The Jones Act was implemented because our economic supply chain for economic transport of cargos was at the mercy of foreign competition. Yes, companies refused to carry our goods and they stayed on the docks.

      American ships are required to go into war zones. They are required to carry munitions and other military equipment regardless of their political sympathies.

      The merchant marine is the fourth arm of our defense. The US government is the largest shipper in the world and some, some, not all is reserved for American bottoms so that the sealift capacity we need and rely on is there whenever.

      Kids. Go to school.

    20. David A. Murray says:

      Epic fail, Heritage. A hysterical and shortsighted piece that does not even square with conservative principles, properly understood.

      I favor free markets, but the fact is there have never been the conditions for a truly free market in the merchant marine, one of the most heavily regulated industries going back two hundred years and more.

      All maritime nations subsidize their merchant marines to varying degrees, and almost all have preference laws like the Jones Act, for reasons of national security as well as prestige. Therefore the conditions for a free market do not exist. It's not company against company in a fair playing field, it's government against government. Why do so many deep sea vessels carry Liberian and Panamanian flags? Is it because of the economic environment of those countries? No, it's their government policies that promise low fees and lax regulations.

      If the Jones Act were repealed, all U.S. shipbuilding capacity would shortly vanish to other, cheaper countries. Do we really want China, India or Turkey building our Navy's ships? Do we want flagged carriers of other nations taking over coastal transport completely from our vessels? I think not. But there's a price to pay in economic efficiency for maintaining that capacity. It's a longer view than next-quarter efficiency.

      Could Homeland Security assure the safety of our nation's waterways if barge and towing companies owned by foreign companies were carrying our grain, steel and coal? Would those companies be as assiduous about following our environmental regulations?

      Please get someone who knows what he is talking about to write about the Jones Act. I thought cookie-cutter rules and one-size-fits-all solutions were for liberals.

      David A. Murray

      Staff Writer, The Waterways Journal

    21. Greg, Houston says:

      The comments are way off the mark. This has nothing to do with the Jones Act. If the oil companies had been mandated to develop and maintain an open-ocean containment and cleanup capability, the vessels required could have been built in U.S. shipyards and manned by U.S. crews. The establishment of MSRC and NRC nearly 20 years ago shows what can be done. Who cares if the vessels cost more than they would in other countries? The immense profits enjoyed by the oil companies after the runup in oil prices were certainly enough to pay for this several times over!

      That said, if there is technology available such as that claimed by DEME, it should be employed in the cleanup.

    22. Brian says:

      The Jones act being repealed with effectively cause all US Shipbuilders to go out of business, period. The Jones act is the only thing that keeps American shipbuilders in business as they cannot fairly compete with China and Korea and their low labor rates, poor safety records and lack of environmental concern. Likewise, as others have stated the Jones Act has nothing to do with this. The Jones Act simply makes it a rule that if a ship uses two us ports, it must be American Made. This is the type of thinking that has placed us in the mess we are in. And driving one of the few manufacturing sectors that still exist in America would be a mistake. We need to demand out of China and Korea what we would expect for Americans then the costs can be equalized and America can once again obtain greatness. To think we have sold ourselves for cheap goods and robber barons is sickening and wrong.

    23. Mr. Kurtz, Californi says:

      The issue with the Jones Act is more complex.Merchant marine capability is essential to our armed forces, as is some measure of domestic ship building and repair capability. Restricting coast-wise trade to US owned, US crewed, US built ships is a more cost effective way to maintain this capability than operating state owned merchant ships and shipyards. The cost of this system really should be allocated to military spending. It is the only justification for the scheme; but I really can't imagine any other way to accomplish the same thing less expensively.

    24. Nick Blenkey, New Yo says:

      There is no evidence that the Jones Act is hampering the clean up. Marine Log reports that two major marine industry groups say they know of no waivers being requested and that they would raise no objections to any waiver requests


    25. Rolland Long says:

      I support a temporary waiver of the Jones Act to help clean up the gulf. In the long run the Jones act should be strengthened the Coast Gaurd has done a lousy job of enforcing the Jones Act costing thousands of jobs. (AKA Matson rebuild of the Mokihana) Repealing of the Jone Act would have devastating impact ot this Nation and put us fully at the mercy of other nations to support critical seal lift capability.

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    27. bonney, Virginia Bea says:

      It is heartbreaking to think that this great country would not except the help of other nations because of a very outdated law. We are always the first to help out others with hard earned american money but yet we don't want to appear to be helpless with this crisis. If this situation isn't taken care of quickly than we will be facing a bigger one. Once these toxins get into the jet stream then ALL of the oceans in the world will be in trouble. The jet stream is very powerful and capable of carrying all these poisons to other places. I have heard that there are several companies that are very good at this sort of clean up effort. I say to Obama & Congress, STOP stalling and let these people do their jobs. We already have a 1.5 billion fishing industry in shambles and God knows how much damage to the enviroment that hasn't been detected yet. It's not going to matter if the Jones act is protecting union workers if everything in the Gulf continues to get messed up. Final thought… What is going to happen to the food chain when all these toxins start falling thru out America as acid like rain???????

    28. david rathburn says:

      Classic case of taking an isolated issue and not anlyzing the full impact of the statement – Heritage Foundation doesn't bother to talk about the number of people employed in the shipbuilding industry (far more than the jobs currently unavailable due to the spill), doesn't take into account the impact on National Security either from the standpoint of losing core capacity in the United States or the impact on increased cost for Navy ships as a result of the loss of overhead absorption OR the fact that domestic shipyards compete against highly government subsidized shipyards overseas – come on Heritage Foundation, you are normally right on point but this story completely missed the mark.

    29. david rathburn says:

      Classic case of taking an isolated situation and leaping to a conclusion without analyzing the full impact of your suggestion. No comment about the number of shipbuilding jobs that would be lost as a result of this policy change (far more than those currently unemployed due to the spill), no discussion about the impact on loss of core competency as an aspect of national defense, no commentary on the increased cost of building Navy ships due to the loss of overhead absortion in shipyards that do both, AND zero recognition of the fact that foreign shipyards are subsidized both directly and indirectly by their governments – come on Heritage Foundation, you are normally right on the mark but this story is very disappointing in its lack of thoughtfully considering the full issue for the sake of a catchy headline – I expect better from you.

    30. K, FL says:

      A really short sighted and ignorant article. The authors have very little understanding of the marine industry and provided no evidence for their claims. I really want to know what makes the belgians etc. have all this equipment and experience since something like this hasn't really happened before AND been dealt with effectively to my knowledge.

      If you want to talk about protectionism, the average skilled job in shipbuilding pays less than the average non skilled job in the auto industry.

    31. Violet says:

      As always with FOX Noise and the Heritage Foundation, this article is blatantly false, as a few others have pointed out.

      Media Matters: Fox & Friends misleads on international aid to Gulf spill (surprise, surprise):

    32. Bill says:

      Recent news stories have suggested that foreign skimming vessels are not able to work on the Deepwater Horizon spill cleanup because of the Jones Act. These reports are incorrect, says the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA). OMSA points out that the Jones Act does not apply and therefore does not prevent foreign vessels from working on oil skimming operations in waters beyond a state's three-mile limit. In fact, a number of foreign vessels have been working at the scene for some time.

      For skimming activities within any state's three-mile limit, longstanding and established law says that any such work, including the skimming activity, must be performed by a U.S. vessel, if one is available. If a U.S. vessel is not available, there is a waiver process that can be used to bring in foreign vessels.

      "We are not yet aware of any waiver request being made because a U.S. vessel is not available," says OMSA. "The important distinction is that under the Jones Act, foreign vessels may be used only if U.S. vessels are not available."

      "Once again, it appears that critics of the Jones Act are distorting the facts by claiming that the Jones Act applies in an instance when it simply doesn't, or where it does, not being forthcoming with the law and the facts. Worse, they are taking advantage of this disastrous situation to undermine American workers for the benefit of foreign companies and foreign workers," said Ken Wells, President of the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA). "But even in instances where the law does not require the use of a U.S. vessel, BP should make every attempt to hire U.S. vessels and their workers. The entire Gulf Coast and surrounding areas have been hurt by the BP spill. The seafood and tourism industries have suffered. And it doesn't make sense now to put the Gulf Coast maritime industry out of work just to give jobs to a few foreign boats," he continued

      OMSA, on behalf of the owners and operators of U.S. flag vessels that work in the offshore energy sector, is working diligently to make sure that the spill is brought under control and cleaned up as quickly as possible. OMSA is also making sure that available American vessels are put to work and, if a waiver is necessary, that this is accomplished quickly and effectively.

      "We want to make crystal clear that in no way, shape or form are we taking any action that hampers the spill cleanup effort. However, this should not become an excuse for foreign companies to take advantage of this tragic accident for their own gain or for opponents of the law to try to undercut it," Wells said.

      Separately, the Marine Cabotage Task Force issued a statement saying that "the American maritime industry supports immediate action to address the unfolding environmental disaster in the Gulf." The statement noted that the Jones Act requires that American vessels be used for domestic transportation activities in the U.S. and that "countless American vessels are already responding in the Gulf" with "many other American vessels … standing by ready to help."

      "There are well-established federal procedures for waiving the Jones Act to bring in foreign vessels in those situations were American vessels are not available," said the MCTF. The American maritime industry has not and will not stand in the way of the use of these well-established waiver procedures to address this crisis.

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    34. coy stovall says:

      How is Mr. Obama responsible or should I say iresponsible "By surrounding himself with fellow Narsicistic socialist communist liers.

    35. rob, atlanta says:

      if the european countries have the technology, why doesn't the european company responsible for the spill (BP) use the money it spends on "spinning" the media to have this technology used instead of the "antiquated" technology they use now instead?

    36. Gena, Lynnwood WA says:

      I believe the story is about a temporary waiving of the Jones Act. I cannot help but believe the president has failed to lead this country throughout this disastrous event. Pointing fingers, insulting, threatening, swearing, and making political statements never accomplished anything. Aren't you tired of this, when there is so much to lose finding blame before finding solutions to the problem? How about waiving the Jones Act temporarily, getting the oil out of the water before it hits the shores with whatever means available in the world? Are we going to wait to design our own suction vessels? Now is not the time to reinvent the wheel; the disaster is here! It is especially imperative as the people working the shore shown on television do not look the least bit interested in a quick clean up effort. Would you be, if you didn't live locally, were paid by the hour whether or not the job was completed quickly or competently, and you thought the money would just keep rolling in from some deep pockets? The real disaster is the total incompetency of the present administration, their complete inability to adjust, be creative, and be helpful under the dire circumstances of this accident. Yes, I believe it was an accident. Even if there were some problems–none of which are clear yet, I cannot ever in my deepest conspiracy theories think a company would ever relish this as part of their portfolio of accomplishments.

    37. David Ring, Green Ha says:

      Neither the drilling rig nor the waters surrounding the drilling rig belong the USA. The drilling rig is registered in the Marshall Islands. Thus being on board the drilling rig would put you under Marshall Island law, not USA law.

      The Jones Act would not affect oil skimmers of non-USA registry from operating in International waters.

      Bill's comments are right on the mark.

      What USA companies have been doing is using foreign shipyards to make their ships, then use foreign labor from the 3rd world to man their ships and use ship's Inspection services that are lax compared to the Bureau of American Shipping.

      Foreign seaman's wages are terribly low: As low as $200 month for some Asian countries. They have no unions, no protection for payment, etc.

      If the job requires an temporary waiver of the Jones Act – get one. It has been done before.


    38. thelma white says:

      This was an accident. Even if there were some problems–none of which are clear yet, I cannot ever in my deepest conspiracy theories think a company would ever relish this as part of their portfolio of accomplishments. As for it being the President's fault…it is no more his fault than yours or mine! Now politicans are trying to put blame on each other,waive the Jones Act, blame President Obama…telling him to get down to the gulf and clean it up, That is just plain stupid; pick it up with his hands. The Jones Act exist for a good reason, protect American jobs, we do not need the Dutch or any other country to take jobs, let Americans who can not find work clean up the spill. I am a Republican who will not sit on my hands and listen to all this nonsense…President Obama is damned is he does and damned if he don't; as an American who loves my country, I am ashamed of those of you who would even suggest that the President is not doing everything humanly possible. President Obama, I guess you could just swim out and plug the leak yourself. Of course even then there would be some want-to-be-politicians and whinners who would find fault with the way you did that! Think you need to know that people are aware of those who just look for opportunity to jump on your back…and do not give a hoot about this country or they would not be trashing any President under these circumstances!

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    40. GOYO IN TEXAS says:

      We need to stop screwing up this world and stop try to out guess the people that know how to best correct this oil mess ; in other words SHUT UP AND SIT YOUR ASS DOWN

    41. Sling Blade says:

      After 50-some days of watchnig tme disaster otherwise known as the Obama administration, and while I am no conspiracy nut, I can see no other reason for Obama to continue to sit idly by with his thumb up his ass while the Gulf coast is being destroyed for any reason other than the fact he WANTS this disaster to continue.Why else would he refuse help from other countries who have the technology to help us? Is he too busy inviting foreigners toD.C. to insult Americans?

      Have you heard of the Carbon Exhange which wil be located in-where else- Chicago?

      I think his crook wants the spill to go on and on so he can try to ram through cap and tax so his CHITCAGO cronies can get richer and richer. I would put nothing past this crooked son of a bitch. He is the enemy of our nation. Impeach him!

    42. Sling Blade says:

      Gee,somehow I

    43. Sling Blade says:

      Gee, somehow I got directed to the Huffington blog.

    44. david cox says:

      I do belive that the hatch act should be waived for the golf clean . Should be done today.

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    46. Ted Holmes Denver says:

      What a shame, Obama's union's come before the gulf and our country.

    47. ronald easley,10101 says:

      This old relic,The Jones Act, should be waived. This way the offers from other countries could be accepted. Cleanup is critical.. We need all the help we can get..Ronals Easley

    48. Puzzled in MD says:

      I am nothing short of puzzled by this. I cannot begin to fathom why they would not temporarily lift this act. There cannot be one compelling reason that is more important or risky than getting the oil STOPPED. I don't care who's fault it is right now; that will be in court and in research papers for many years to come. Right now the one and only important thing is to stop the oil, nothing more. And one more thing – what could possibly be stopping whoever it is from just breaking the law right now to get this help in? If it works and speeds up the process are they really going to fine, fire, or jail anyone? Get the job done already. Punish whoever needs to be punised later.

    49. Mark says:

      You could not be more ignorant about the Jones act. Next time do some research before writing on a subject you know nothing about.

    50. Doyle Garrett says:

      Some have questioned why other countries have not helped with the Gulf oil spill.

      Actually, within days of the oil spill, several European nations and thirteen countries in total apparently offered the Obama administration ships to assist in the clean-up of the Gulf.

      These offers were declined, because President O’Bama would have had to waive the “Jones Law” in order to accept their help. This may have angered unions, to which O’Bama is politically indebted.

      President Bush waived this old labor union protection law during Katrina. Now, when bringing foreign ships in might make a significant difference, the President-In-Training sits on his hands.

      According to one newspaper, European firms could complete the task in four months, rather than an estimated nine months if done only by the U.S. Working with the U.S., the cleanup could be accomplished in three months. The Belgian firm DEME contends it can clean up the oil with accuracy at a depth of 2,000 meters. Another European firm with capabilities is the Belgian firm Jan De Nul Group. There are also Dutch companies with similar special equipment capable of accelerating cleaning-up the Gulf. The Belgians and the Dutch are also long time NATO allies and as such partners in international security cooperation.

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    54. Jim says:

      Bad Idea,

      Remember that it was a foreign flagged drill ship that was resposible for this disaster. American flagged vessels are required to adhear to a level of regulation that is far superior to those of other "flag of convenience" states.

      Additionally, repealing this act will decimate an already ailing US shipbuilding industry, open the airways up to foreign operators (imagine flying Air China from SFO to LAX), and allow for foreign trucks to be imported into the US.

      The Jones Act is an immense piece of legislation that protects far more that the US shipping industry.

      Please research your subject prior to posting blanket veiws.

    55. Prof. Gringo, Seattl says:

      The US Merchant Marine is the nation's 4th arm of defense. We need to protect American jobs, American industry and OUR nation's defense. Protect the Jones Act!

      It's amazing how people can attack that piece of legislation. It's US merchant vessels that are called upon in a time of war or emergency to carry the weapons, tanks, trucks, ammo, supplies and fuel that are needed by US military forces.

      The US Merchant Marine provides jobs for mariners, shipyard workers, engineers, port workers etc.

      It's an investment in the US.

      And those foreign-flagged vessels in the Gulf are a JOKE!

      That so-callled "super-skimmer" from Taiwan was a FAILURE!

      Get your facts CORRECT!

      BTW the Deepwater Horizon was a Marshall Islands flagged and registered ship.

      It's time to EXPAND the Jones Act and protect the US and our maritime industry.

      American jobs, American defense, American Pride!

      We already have enough of our country being made and owned in foreign countries, Say NO to foreign interests, Say YES to the JONES ACT TODAY!!!

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