While the Offshore Marine Services Association (OMSA) has recently chartered in its own vessel to patrol for Jones Act violations, it seems that it did not have to put to sea to document its first allegation of a violation made under its Jones Act Enforcer program. It only had to check out some social media brags.
In a report submitted to Rear Adm. John W Mauger, Assistant Commandant for Prevention Policy, U.S. Coast Guard, and Michael Hebert, head of the Jones Act Division of Enforcement, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, OMSA alleges that a Chinese-built, Vanuatu-flagged transported merchandise between points off the coast of Louisiana.
OMSA generated the report after it received a tip from an industry stakeholder regarding the vessel operator’s social media accounts. Upon review, those accounts detailed the Chinese-built vessel carrying cargo.
“As I’ve said before, the Jones Act is a simple law,” said OMSA President Aaron Smith. “Vessels transporting cargo between U.S. points must be built in the U.S. It is also an important law because it protects U.S. workers from unfair competition from foreign workers willing to accept wages far below what any U.S. citizen could or should accept. In this report, we’ve detailed how a company—by their own admission—used a Chinese-built vessel to transport cargo. That’s illegal. Not to mention the vessel they are using has a record of failing Coast Guard inspections.”
The vessel in question is a derrick barge with a heavy-lift crane capable of lifting large pieces of equipment. In the allegation, OMSA details how the vessel used its crane to pick up pieces of oil platform (called jackets) weighing thousands of tons and while the jackets were suspended in the air, carried this cargo for miles across the Gulf of Mexico. This type of transportation is known to have higher safety risks than if the pieces of the platform had been placed on a U.S.-flagged barge for transport.
The report also details the vessel’s history through multiple owners of safety and pollution prevention infractions and how, based upon official U.S. Coast Guard reports, the authorities seemed to let these violations go unpunished, provided the vessel operator agreed to fix the problem.
The vessel “has racked up a shocking number of violations, and in each case, it seems they were told ‘just don’t do it again,’” said Smith. “If that were a U.S.-flagged vessel, the U.S. Coast Guard would have prevented it from leaving the dock and the crew might even face criminal penalties. Foreign-flagged vessels should play be the same rules.”
The OMSA submission to USCG and CBP contains links to the social media posts that were the apparent “smoking gun” alerting it to the violations. You can download it HERE.