For the U.S. maritime industry, the 2020 legislative year did not end until January 1, 2021. That’s when the Senate held a session at which it completed, by a vote of 81 to 13, the final step in the process required to enact the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 despite a veto by the president.
The veto override brought a collective sigh of relief from maritime interests. It came within days of the signing into law by the president (after a veto threat) of an omnibus spending bill onto which had been tacked the Water Resources Development Act of 2020 (WRDA).
The NDAA is also somewhat of an omnibus measure in that tacked onto it was funding for the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD) that brought good news to Philly Shipyard and the Texas A&M Maritime Academy in the shape of $390 million to fund construction of a fourth National Security Multi-Mission Vessel (NSMV). Also tacked on was the Coast Guard Authorization Act for 2020, which reauthorizes the U.S. Coast Guard and the Federal Maritime Commission for FY2020-FY2021, and authorizes a specified level of end-of-year strength for active duty personnel and military training student loads to the Coast Guard for those fiscal years.
To many, including the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), one of the most significant provisions in the NDAA is one confirming that all American laws, including the Jones Act, apply to renewable energy development on America’s Outer Continental Shelf. By eliminating uncertainty over this issue, says AMP, Congress will help unleash robust investment and job creation in the American maritime industry tied to clean offshore energy development.
The NDAA also clarifies the terms and procedures that apply in those circumstances under which an emergency administrative Jones Act waiver can be issued. In particular, a national defense waiver must be tied to a legitimate national defense need, non-defense waivers will be time-limited, and all waivers will now be subject to public reporting requirements by any foreign vessel using the waiver to operate in American domestic markets.
Additionally, notes AMP two separate “Sense of Congress” statements reaffirm strong Congressional support for the American Maritime industry and for the Jones Act.