Report: Jones Act did not impede Gulf cleanup
A report by the non-partisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling confirmed the Jones Act did not prevent foreign vessels from helping with the cleanup effort during the Deep Water Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year.
The report, Deep Water: The Gulf Oil Disaster and the Future of Offshore Drilling, was prepared by the independent entity at the request of President Obama and released on Jan. 11.
'While decision makers did decline to purchase some foreign equipment for operational reasons — for example, Dutch vessels that would have taken weeks to outfit and sail to the region, and a Taiwanese super-skimmer that was expensive and highly inefficient in the Gulf — they did not reject foreign ships because of Jones Act restrictions,' the report said. 'When the act did apply, the National Incident Commander appears to have granted waivers and exemptions when requested.'
This message was repeatedly affirmed during the cleanup by the Jones Act vessel industry, led namely by the Maritime Cabotage Task Force and Offshore Marine Service Association.
'The Jones Act in no way, shape and form hindered the BP clean-up effort,' said James Henry, chairman of the Maritime Cabotage Task Force, in a statement Thursday. 'Thousands of American vessels were already at work cleaning up oil in the Gulf and, when necessary, qualified foreign vessels identified as suitable by unified command participated in the effort.
'We are pleased the president's commission has concluded the Jones Act did not obstruct efforts to clean up the worst oil spill in U.S. history,' he said.
The Jones Act mandates the use of American vessels and workers in U.S. domestic maritime trade, such as the delivery of goods from one U.S. port to another. The law does not apply to, and does not constrain, skimming outside of three miles from shore, including near the well 50 miles from the U.S. coastline. The commission concluded that, when skimming near the shore was necessary, an expedited waiver process enabled foreign vessels to participate in the cleanup effort when needed.
In May 2010, President Obama announced the creation of the commission and charged it to determine the causes of the disaster, improve the country's ability to respond to spills, and recommend reforms to make offshore energy production safer.