Are new Administration limits on offshore drilling

a sensible precaution?
a knee-jerk overreaction?

June 12, 2010

Jones Act not hampering Gulf clean up

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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