Member-companies of the International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) are against changes proposed to the Jones Act by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The changes troubling the IMCA concern the modification or revocation of exemptions to the Jones Act for pipe-laying, cable-laying, diving support work and heavy-lift crane construction and installation work. Exemptions would no longer be available for the installation of pipeline connectors from foreign flagged vessels.
CBP has determined that these foreign vessels are not incidental to the laying of pipeline, so they do not deserve to be exempt from the Jones Act. In addition, CBP wishes to limit interpretations to the term “vessel equipment” to exclude machinery and goods that are not needed to navigate, operate or maintain the vessel itself.
Why do these changes worry the IMCA? According to the association, these changes would overthrow 30 years of precedent that the maritime industry has relied on. Not only that, but millions of dollars have been spent by the offshore industry to conduct oil and gas operations according to the Jones Act, and any changes mean much of those investments would have been for naught.
The IMCA threatened that the changes could shut down for an extended period of time most deep water activities in the Gulf of Mexico. The challenge is that there simply aren’t enough coastwise vessels able to perform work currently being done by foreign-flagged vessels.