With rising gas prices threatening yet another tap of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, U.S.-flagged vessel operators have banded together to let the federal government know that U.S. owned vessels and American crews are standing by ready, willing and able to move the oil.
In a letter to the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS), Energy (DOE) and Transportation (DOT), the American Maritime Partnership (AMP), a broad-based coalition representing the U.S. domestic maritime industry and Jones Act operators, has offered its full resources and consultation to help implement new Congressional requirements that should increase the use of U.S.-flag vessels should future drawdowns of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) occur.
The letter comes after the last release of oil from the SPR resulted in nearly 50 waivers of the Jones Act, bringing in foreign-flagged vessels and crews, to transport oil when U.S.-flag vessels were available.
“AMP was troubled by the decisions during the last SPR drawdown to issue waivers for foreign-flag vessels, employing foreign workers to transport oil from the SPR despite the fact U.S.-flag vessels were available to assist,” said AMP. “AMP recognizes that there may be circumstances where waivers of the Jones Act are necessary, but we want to work with the Departments to maximize the use of available American vessels, employing American workers, in the transportation of SPR oil should another drawdown occur.”
Under the new law, Jones Act waivers cannot be granted until the DHS “takes adequate measures to ensure the use of United States flag vessels” and no waivers may be granted unless the DOT has determined whether or not U.S.-flag vessels are capable of transporting SPR oil. Further, should the feds issue Jones Act waivers during a SPR drawdown, the DOT is now required to provide the DHS with written justification for not using U.S.-flag vessels.
To ensure the use of U.S. tonnage is maximized prior to any future Jones Act waivers in the event of a SPR drawdown, AMP urges that the federal government begin consultations with representatives of the U.S.-flag maritime industry immediately.