The American Waterways Operators has applauded the recent passage of H.R. 6395, the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, noting that “for AWO and the domestic maritime industry as a whole, H.R. 6395 is one of the most significant laws to be enacted by Congress in many years.”
The bill came into law after the Senate voted by a massive majority to override a presidential veto.
The bill includes a landmark provision that affirms the application of U.S. laws, including the Jones Act (the law requiring that vessels transporting cargo between two U.S. ports be American-built, -owned and -crewed), to renewable energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf. The legislation eliminates the uncertainty that had been created by conflicting federal agency interpretations and paves the way for significant new investment in American vessels, and jobs for American mariners, to serve the burgeoning offshore renewable energy market.
H.R. 6395 also brings much-needed reform to the administrative process for issuance of Jones Act waivers by clarifying that a national defense waiver must be tied to a legitimate national defense need, establishing strict time limits on non-defense waivers, and increasing transparency by requiring public reporting on any foreign vessel using such a waiver to operate in U.S. domestic commerce.
Other key provisions for the tugboat, towboat and barge industry include the establishment of the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Program, codification of requirements for harbor tugs engaged in limited operations beyond the Boundary Line and a time-limited directive to the Coast Guard to establish differentiated inspection user fees for towing vessels using the Towing Safety Management System and Coast Guard options to comply with Subchapter M towing vessel safety regulations.
“We extend our hearty thanks to the many AWO members, industry coalition partners, and bipartisan champions in Congress who helped to get this important legislation over the finish line despite numerous challenges,” AWO President and CEO Jennifer Carpenter stated. “We look forward to working with our partners and allies to build on this progress and deliver results that make a positive difference for the domestic maritime industry as the 117th Congress gets underway.”