In what U.S. Senator from Louisiana Bill Cassidy (R-LA) has referred to as an attempt to ‘Level the Playing Field’, the American Offshore Worker Fairness Act has been introduced in the Senate and House of Representatives to tackle what was considered a loophole in the Jones Act, reports Standard Club.
Currently, the law provides an exemption for vessels that are more than 50% foreign-owned to operate in US waters to be manned by foreign crew; which bypasses general requirements for offshore vessels and structures to be manned by US citizens or lawful permanent residents.
About the bill
At the time of drafting, the exemption was seen as a way to avoid similarly strict requirements being placed on American offshore crew working internationally. The unfortunate consequence of this was that US-flagged vessels could not compete with foreign-flagged vessels in terms of operating costs and were left at a disadvantage.
The bill has been drafted so as to ensure that US-flagged vessels and foreign-flagged vessels working in offshore energy activities in US waters will be required to adhere to the same standards and thus allow them to compete more readily for work / projects. It also allows for greater oversight of foreign-flagged vessels and their crews by the USCG to ensure compliance.
The bill would:
- Require crew on foreign-flagged vessels be either U.S. citizens or citizens of the nation where the vessel is flagged.
- Limit the number of visas that could be issued to crew of each foreign vessel to 2.5 times the number of crew members on that vessel.
- Require that foreign vessels prove their ownership annually.
- Require the USCG to inspect these vessels annually to ensure compliance with this law
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Source: Standard Club