Jacksonville-based Crowley Maritime Corporation says it has dispatched 18 company-owned or operated Jones Act tankers to discharge gasoline and diesel fuel into Florida ports in the coming days.
The mobilization of tankers is in response to fuel shortages caused by the unprecedented evacuation of millions of Floridians ahead of Hurricane Irma.
The vessels include Crowley’s MT Ohio and MT Florida, which were among the first tankers to bring fuel into the Port of Tampa on Tuesday along with the MT West Virginia in Port Everglades.
Crowley says the vessels will be bringing a combined volume 2.75 million barrels (115 million gallons) of gasoline and 500,000 barrels (21 million gallons) of diesel fuel within an eight-day period. This is enough to fill the tanks of more than seven million cars once distributed from the ports to service stations across the state, according to the company.
Fuel is now being discharged at all three major marine terminals in Florida – Jacksonville, Port Canaveral and Ft. Lauderdale in addition to Tampa. The vessels began discharging as soon as local fuel depot and port authorities gave the all clear to do so.
Rob Grune, Crowley’s senior vice president and general manager of petroleum services, noted that berth availability is limited even when fully operational. “As a result, we expect that fully loaded vessels will experience significant delays waiting in line to discharge.” He added that “Crowley’s vessels, and those of other American operators, are supplying as much fuel to Florida as the shoreside supply chain can accept and distribute.”
On Wednesday, the DHS announced that it had extended a Jones Act waiver for tankers delivering petroleum products to areas ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey to September 22. The waiver allows oil and gas operators to use foreign-flagged vessels to move petroleum cargoes within the affected areas.
Since Florida ports reopened earlier this week, a steady stream of tankers have been descending on the state to bring fuel to storm-battered markets. Some tanker trucks were even receiving escorts on the road from Florida Highway Patrol to move fuel as quickly as possible to needed areas. It was not immediately clear how many of the tankers arriving in Florida this week were Jones Act qualified versus foreign-flagged.
“We are extremely grateful for our customers’ response to this crisis, and for the dedication and sacrifice of the American men and women operating these vessels,” said Rob Grune, Crowley’s senior vice president and general manager, petroleum services. “Many of them live in Florida, and have put their own needs on hold while responding to the urgent needs of others.”
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, is a federal statute that requires that all goods transported by water in U.S domestic commerce be carried on American vessels.