U.S. Seafarers Already Seeing Affects of Proposed Changes to Jones Act

Upon arrival in the office this morning, I had the following press release from about 4 people sitting in my inbox.  It reads:

The impact of proposed changes to the Jones Act and the use of foreign flagged vessels in the US offshore sector is already being felt by seafarers according to international shipping recruitment agency Faststream, with companies rushing to replace their non-US crews.

Should the proposals by the US Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) first issued in July 2009 be implemented, they would radically change the interpretations of rules for vessels transporting specialised equipment used by the offshore oil and gas industry and revoke foreign flag exemptions to the Jones Act including pipe and cable-laying, diving support work.

“Some of our offshore service companies that we work with are already making moves to man their vessels with US crews in anticipation of the proposed changes,” said Fort Lauderdale based Craig Johnson, President of Faststream’s US operations.

“Foreign crews are being shifted away from the US and replaced with American citizens. We think that around 70 vessels could be affected by these proposals, but there still remains a good deal of uncertainty as to how far these proposals will go. We haven’t as yet seen a jump in salary expectations from crews with salaries remaining relatively stable thus far.”

He added: “There are more than enough qualified US seafarers available to man these vessels should the proposals become a reality. Whilst there is a limited pool of qualified personnel for this sort of specialist work, we have around 4,000 US mariners on our books and can crew up these ships with ease.”

The deadline for submissions to the CBP proposals passed on 17 August and a decision is expected soon.

While the proposed changes may be all good for U.S. seafarers, they obviously do not come without opposition from the international community, particularly from the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA).

Support and opinions have come from far and wide,” said Hugh Williams, Chief Executive of IMCA. “Collective opinion is that if the changes, as written, are adopted, they could have a potentially devastating impact on the US offshore oil and gas industry.

US companies involved in deepwater oil and gas exploration rely on sophisticated, highly specialised vessels for subsea installation construction support, pipe-umbilical laying, as well as maintenance of seafloor facilities. US-flagged vessels represent less than 20 per cent of such capability, and almost none of the top-of-the-range vessels, so foreign-flagged vessels are essential to maintain operations at their current levels. Indeed, at least five years could be needed to develop a fleet of U.S. vessels to meet the demands of the CBP’s proposal if adopted as proposed. Read More

Let’s hear your opinions on this issue…