WASHINGTON, DC / ACCESSWIRE / November 18, 2019 / On Friday, the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA) submitted a letter to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection expressing serious concern with proposed modifications to ruling letters that would allow non-Jones Act compliant vessels to be utilized for a wide range of offshore activities, including offshore wind energy facility construction.
For nearly a century, fishermen have complied with the Jones Act. RODA is concerned that the proposed modifications and revocation of ruling letters to CBP's application of the Jones Act would not hold offshore wind energy developers to the same standards. The proposed definition is too broad and violates the purpose of the Jones Act. Carving out a broad exemption for an entire new industry does nothing to aid the development of U.S. marine commerce.
As the number of proposed offshore wind energy projects continues to grow throughout the U.S., their widely promised economic benefits must accrue to the citizens who are displaced, and to U.S. coastal communities at large. For offshore wind energy-related operations that can be executed with existing American vessels and crew, this means delivering on promises to fully utilize those resources. For larger construction tasks for which there may not currently be qualified vessels, foreign-owned wind energy companies should contract with U.S. shipyards to build the necessary Jones Act-qualified boats.
The actions proposed in the notice also have significant bearing on national security and environmental protection. Monitoring and enforcement of U.S. environmental and security laws on foreign vessels poses extraordinary challenges due the additional permissions needed by the Coast Guard to board non-U.S. flag vessels.
Finally, RODA noted that CBP may only issue Jones Act interpretations relevant to these activities through a public rulemaking process and after conducting thorough interagency evaluations. Due to the highly case-specific nature of ruling letters, any CBP action that affects the maritime community or the public more broadly must follow the Administrative Procedure Act. The notice overreaches a ruling letter's authority by proposing to adopt a new and unprecedented definition for "vessel equipment." The inclusion of specific, previously uncontemplated activities-and the materials for use in those activities-in the definition of "vessel equipment" is a new statutory interpretation, and unfit for adoption through modification of existing ruling letters.
The proposed changes are described at page 12 here: https://www.cbp.gov/sites/default/files/assets/documents/2019-Oct/Vol_53_No_38_Title.pdf. Comments are due by November 22nd and must be submitted by postal mail.
SOURCE: Responsible Offshore Development Alliance