jones act enforcer

MV Jones Act Enforcer. Photo courtesy Offshore Marine Service Association

Jones Act Enforcer Makes First Violation Allegation

Mike Schuler
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August 23, 2021

The organization behind a private Jones Act enforcement vessel operating in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico has made its first allegation of wrongdoing, according to the Offshore Marine Service Association, which charters the vessel.

In its first public report related to the Jones Act Enforcer, OMSA alleges that the Vanuatu-flagged derrick barge Epic Hedron, which was built in China, has been transporting merchandise between U.S. points off the coast of Louisiana in violation of the Jones Act and calls for an investigation.

In an allegation letter sent to the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection, OMSA states that the Epic Hedron used its heavy-lift crane to pick up oil platform jackets during decommissioning work and move them across the GOM while suspended in the air.

OMSA notes that not only are these actions in violation of the Jones Act, but the mode of transportation also poses a hazard to the safe navigation of vessels.

“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.”

OMSA said it was tipped off to the operations after receiving a tip about social media posts by Epic Hedron’s operator, Triton Offshore, which provided descriptions and photos of the work at the center of the alleged violation.

A screengrab of Triton Offshore’s post about the work.

The letter also details a history of safety and pollution prevention infractions by the vessel 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, according to OMSA.

“The EPIC HEDRON 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.”

OMSA’s report further detailed how the Epic Hedron has continuously failed to transmit its Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal in violation of international safety regulations, even though the U.S. Coast Guard has regulations allowing vessels to turn this system off in certain instances. For this matter, OMSA is requesting the Coast Guard change this regulation.

“I think more people, not less, need to know what the EPIC HEDRON is up to,” said Smith. “It, and all
other Chinese-built vessels, should be publicly broadcasting their activities. The question is why aren’t
they?”

As we have reported previously, OMSA has chartered a Fast Supply Vessel (FSV) outfitted with aerial and surface surveillance equipment, renamed Jones Act Enforcer, to collect evidence of foreign vessels violating the Jones Act during offshore energy projects in Gulf of Mexico. When and if evidence of Jones Act violations has been gathered, it will be submitted by OMSA to CBP and other appropriate authorities, as well as made public.

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