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New Jones Act Enforcement Vessel Looks to Bust ForeignFlag Lawbreakers

Sick and tired of foreign vessels taking advantage of loopholes in the Jones Act, the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) says it is taking the unprecedented step of launching a vessel tasked with documenting and reporting Jones Act lawbreakers.

The Jones Act requires that seaborne cargo shipping between two U.S. points be carried on U.S.-built, crewed and owned vessels, and serves as the bedrock of American maritime policy with broad support in Washington. But over the years, various rulings by Customs and Border Protection, the agency responsible for Jones Act enforcement, have created loopholes that have allowed foreignflagged vessels to transport energy equipment between U.S. points in contravention of the law.

According to OMSA, these loopholes have opened the gates for foreignflag vessel operators to “repeatedly” exploit the rules to the detriment of American mariners and national security.

“The Act is not being implemented in a manner that is correct under the law and as a result, American security is being threatened and American workers are losing jobs to foreign vessels,” said Aaron Smith, OMSA President and CEO. “It’s time that someone takes a stand and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”

Now, OMSA and over 140 of its member companies have decided to take action with the launch of the JONES ACT ENFORCER, a firstofitskind vessel that will be used to gather video and photographic evidence of Jones Act violations to be submitted to the authorities and shared with media.

According to OMSA, CBP has openly acknowledged three times since 2009 that they wrongly exceeded their authority, yet in the first two instances it failed to follow through promised remedies. The third time came in 2019 when CBP sought to close the loopholes they had created, while also creating new loopholes to the Jones Act allowing foreign vessels to engage in “lifting operations,” which could include the transportation of merchandise between two U.S. points in direct contravention to the text of the Jones Act, OMSA said.

“The Jones Act is very simple, if a foreign vessel picks up cargo at one point in the United States, and takes it to another point, it has broken the law,” Smith said. “Foreign vessels have succeeded in confusing this issue for a long time. Now, we’re going to shine a bright spotlight on their actions and show everyone just how many foreign mariners are taking money out of U.S. mariners’ pockets. If foreign vessel owners or the companies they work for don’t like this scrutiny, I suggest they hire U.S. owned, U.S. crewed, and U.S. built vessels.”

The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of News2Sea.

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