Is the Jones Act slowing Gulf Spill clean-up efforts? [457 votes total]

YES (215)
NO (242)

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Posted By: Carl Bentzel

Posted On: Jul 28, 2010
Views: 3715
Jones Act

I worked as a US Senate and House Counsel for close to 15 years, and watched this debate emerge with some disbelief. The argument has been made that:

1) the Jones Act prohibits oil skimming vessels is not true - foreign vessels are authorized to collect as much oil as they can as long as they operate outside the state territiorial limits and come back to the same port from which they departed.

2) THERE IS NO SUCH THING SKIMMING VESSELS - simply put there is not enough of a market in skimming watewrways of oil to justify investment in a skimming vessel. While there could be one or two skimming vessels out there, most vessels are equipped with skimming equipment that helps them collect oil. There are hundreds of Jones Act qualified vessels that routinely serve to supply and facilitate the oil and gas industry that have been and could be equipped with skimming equipment (if available), but too make the allegation that there is a large fleet of foreign skimmers out there is simply uniformed.

3) Certain editorialists that do not understand anything about the operation and use of maritime equipment cited the Jones Act as an impediment to the use of a super skimmer. As I inderstand it, the skimmer in question was a laid up oil tanker that was retrofitted with skimming equipment because of lack of other viable business. Ultimately, it was briefly deployed with what I inderstand was very very limited succcess. Think of it as employing an elephant to sweep the kitchen floor.

In my opinion, this issue is being used for political purposes, and incertain cases to help secure contracts,

Posted By: H. Clayton Cook, Jr

Posted On: Jul 14, 2010
Views: 3969

The Jones Act has not been a cause of cleanup delay. A blanket waiver of the sort generally being urged by Jones Act detractors would not have allowed additional "foreogn ships" or have otherwise acceletated the cleanup effort.

The Jones Act expressly allows the operation of foreign "oil splii response vessels" in U.S. waters without the necessity of a waiver (Title 46 United States Code 55113).

While the Jones Act prohibits foreign vessels from transporting merchandise between points in the U.S., foreign vessels are allowed to operate in U.S. waters and can conduct a variety of operations without a waiver. As of June 30, there were at least 24 foreign vessels working in cleanup efforts (without any Jones Act waivers having been requested or required).

I served as General Counsel of the U.S. Maritime Administration during the Nixon and Ford Administrations, am a member of the Maritime Law Association of the United States, and am Counsel to Seward & Kissel LLP, a New York City based practice with extensive experience in Jones Act and related maritime law issues.