Jones Act advocates praise Customs proposal to close 'loopholes'


(WASHINGTON) — U.S.-flag advocates are praising a proposal by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to revise almost 30 interpretative rulings that they say provide “loopholes” to the Jones Act, reported. CBP is seeking public comment until Feb. 17 on a proposal to revise the agency’s position that “vessel equipment” carried between two domestic points is not considered “merchandise” that the Jones Act requires to be carried on U.S.-flag vessels. CBP’s rulings on “vessel equipment” included a controversial decision in 2009 that a subsea assembly known in the oil industry as a “Christmas tree” was vessel equipment when transported by a construction vessel specializing in equipment installation.

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The following is the text of a news release from the American Maritime Partnership (AMP):

(WASHINGTON) — The American Maritime Partnership (AMP) on Monday issued the following statement regarding the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) revocation notice that will restore American jobs by correcting previous letters of interpretations of the Jones Act:

“The men and women of the American maritime industry commend the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s efforts to rightfully restore over 3,200 American jobs to the American economy and close loopholes that gave preference to foreign workers and foreign shipbuilding,” said Tom Allegretti, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership. “We applaud President Trump’s commitment to ‘buy American and hire American,’ and the correct and lawful interpretation of the Jones Act will ensure the preservation of American jobs and maintenance of the U.S. shipyard industrial base, both of which are critical to our economic security and national security.”

AMP joins a growing list of government and industry leaders that understand the importance of restoring American jobs to the American economy and support the restoration of this lawful interpretation of the Jones Act, which governs the transportation of equipment and cargo between coastwise points.

“This decision will get Louisiana mariners back to work by restoring the proper treatment of U.S.-built vessels crewed by U.S. citizens in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. “The offshore industry is a lifeblood to Louisiana. We need to close loopholes that benefit foreign workers at the detriment of Louisiana mariners. I look forward to working with President Trump on this issue, and I applaud the CBP for taking a positive step that will benefit the lives of many Louisiana families.”

“The Jones Act is a pillar for America’s maritime industry that serves to put this nation’s workers and ingenuity ahead of foreign interests,” added Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation. “This decision by CBP is in the spirit of recognizing and upholding the Jones Act. And by closing loopholes that existed to the detriment of American workers, CBP has taken an important step that underscores the extraordinary importance of the Jones Act and its role in strengthening our maritime industry. My hope is that this decision is the start of an even stronger transition in favor of the Jones Act across the entire federal government and I commend CBP for its leadership in taking this action.”

“The Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) applauds the administration’s strong step to restore the congressional intent of the Jones Act. This notice opens a domestic market to U.S. mariners on U.S.-built vessels, owned by U.S. companies,” said OMSA President Aaron Smith. “The offshore service industry is ready, willing, and capable of completing this work, having recently invested $2 billion in U.S. shipyards on vessels tailored to safely completing this work.”

“I applaud the corrective action taken last week by U.S. Customs and Border Protection that supports the rule of law and reinforces the federal government’s compliance with the Jones Act,” said Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La. “This corrective action is the right thing to do for Louisiana workers and will also benefit the American economy. In addition, unlike so many job-killing regulations and rules the Obama administration issued on its way out the door, this agency ruling from Customs actually reverses some of the economic damage the Obama administration allowed to take place on its watch. It will help to ensure the oil and natural gas industry in the Gulf, which is vital to local and national economic growth, will continue to have a robust supply of U.S. crews and vessels to strengthen America’s energy security and help bring reliable energy to families across the nation.”

“The corrective actions taken by the CBP return us to appropriate rule of law, help to eliminate unfair advantages of foreign workers and companies, and protect America’s national security interest. This is the right decision for Louisiana’s energy work force and for America’s energy security,” said Rep. Garret Graves, R-La. 

“The Shipbuilders Council of America (SCA) applauds the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s efforts to close labor loopholes benefiting foreign shipbuilding and re-establishing more than 3,200 American jobs associated with the maritime sector,” said Matthew Paxton, president of SCA. “This correction of past misinterpretations of the Jones Act will enable our shipyards to continue to supply, build, maintain and repair the essential vessels needed by the oil and gas industry.”

By Professional Mariner Staff