NIC: Jones Act æno impedimentÆ to Gulf cleanup
The U.S. government's National Incident Command in charge of the oil cleanup effort underway in the Gulf of Mexico has circulated a fact sheet stating that U.S.-flag vessel rules for operating in coastal waters have not prevented it from accepting assistance and equipment from other countries.
'In no case has the Federal On Scene Coordinator (FOSC) or Unified Area Command (UAC) declined to request assistance or accept offers of assistance of foreign vessels that meet an operational need because the Jones Act was implicated,' NIC said.
In anticipation of Jones Act waiver requests, NIC has coordinated closely with other federal agencies, such as Customs and Border Protection, to accelerate the process for any waiver requests.
'To date, no waivers of the Jones Act (or similar federal laws) has been required because none of the foreign vessels currently operating as part of the BP Deepwater Horizon response has required such a waiver,' NIC said.
The Jones Act, the common name for Section 27 of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act, only applies within three miles of shore. Therefore, foreign oil skimmers along with American skimmers, are already at work beyond three miles. The Deepwater Horizon spill is occurring 50 miles from shore, and the vast majority of oil is beyond three miles.
The Maritime Cabotage Task Force, a national coalition of the American shipping and shipyard industry, in a statement Monday called the criticisms of the Jones Act 'unfounded.'
'The American shipping industry cares deeply about the Gulf and has launched an all-hands-on-deck effort to help with the Gulf cleanup and more American vessels are standing by, eager to help,' the task force said. 'The Jones Act is no impediment to the cleanup for all the reasons outlined by the NIC and has not been an impediment to the use of foreign skimmers and other foreign vessels in the Gulf.'