Thursday, July 1, 2010

"Drill Baby, Drill!" - Jones Act - Updated July 1st

Port Townsend, July 1, 2010. This is the transcript of Adm. Thad Allen's daily press briefing on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill for Wednesday, June 30. Admiral Allen briefed from Washington, on his last day in the United States Coast Guard. He will continue spill coordination as a civilian.

I’d like to make a couple comments about the Jones Act. There have been a lot of questions about that. We at no time in the course of this response have been inhibited by anything have to do with what we call Jones Act or Jones Act Labors. All of the vessels that are operating outside three miles do not require Jones Act waiver and we’ve been able to use four and five vessels out there, as we have needed.

There have been consideration given to Jones Act and we are looking right now at the Jones Act waivers for the four or five vessels that are working offshore because of the weather in the even that they might need to come into port because of the hurricane season we wanted to make sure that they were covered by that. So throughout this week we’ve been considering waivers for the production vessels that are out there that are foreign flag.

But other than that, there have been no inhibitions or constraints put on this response related to any Jones Act waivers moving forward.

But also like to talk about the foreign offers of assistance. There have been questions about how they’re coming in about how we’re handling those just to give you a summary to date. We’ve received 107 offers of foreign assistance from 44 countries and four international organizations. Sixty-eight of those offers were really government-to-government—this one government extending the offer of equipment or personnel or supplies to us. Thirty-nine of those offers were by private offers, which become another potential source of supply for the types of equipment we might need.

Out of the 68, government-to-government offers to date 35 appear to be equipment or resources that we could use. We’ve accepted nine of those offers already and 24 of those offers are being processed right now through the State Department for acceptance. This is an ongoing process has been from the start but wanted to give you an update here.

Of the 39 private offers, it looks like 30 of those are equipment or types of materials that we could use. Those have been provided to our folks that are out there acquiring whatever it is booms, dispersants, or skinny material and they become part of the broader source of supply that we’re pursuing in trying to resource our operation moving forward.

Finally, we have announced the publishing of an emergency rule that’s going to loosen the requirements for equipment availability around the country.

This emergency rule allows us to relax some of those response requirements and allows us to aggregate capability at different port levels through mutual assistance to free up additional resources that we could bring to the Gulf. We are looking now to go around the country and asses the implications of easing those requirements and what resources could be freed up to brought to the Gulf.

This will also include similar resources that are held at naval installations around the country and we are in active discussions right now moving forward on that. [end of comments]

Here the latest list from the
State Department, of more than 20 countries (including the much ballyhooed Dutch Skimmers and President Obama's Kenya!) that are offering equipments, and the status of equipment being offered.

The proper reference to this act is The Merchant Marine Act of 1920. It was sponsored by Senator Wesley L. Jones and is therefore referred to as the "Jones Act." The act is complex and cannot be dealt with in "sound bits." If you are truly interested, the Cornell Law School displays the full law, which, as you can see covers a wide variety of subjects to the US Merchant Marine.

Paragraph 883 is the much quoted, misinterpreted, and politically manipulated section of the law.

The Act contains two parts;

  • the first, to protect American shipping interests,
  • the second, to provided remedies for sailors injured at sea, and death benefits for those who are killed at sea.
The first part of the Act promotes a strong, Merchant Marine, to support the United States though the use of American built, owned, and manned vessels. It further stipulates restrictions on the use of foreign parts and labor in ship construction and repair is heavily restricted.

And American interests are protected by restricting shipping and passenger trade within the United States to American owned or American flagged ships, and stipulated that 75% of a ship's crew must consist of American citizens.

Another provision of the Act prohibits a foreign built vessel owned, staffed, and registered overseas, known as "Flags of Convenience," from carrying cargo between American ports. This was written into the law to protect American ships and cargoes.

This is the provision around which swirls the controversy.

I related a practical example of this in "Boxcars Go to Sea - Alaska Steamship." Seattle based Alaska Steamship bought a train ferry built in Japan, registered in Nassau, to haul rail cars for the Alaska Railroad between Seattle and Whittier. Because she was built in Japan, and registered in Nassau, she was prohibited from providing rail car service between Seattle and Whittier.

To get around this provision of the Jones Act, Alaska Steamship created a Canadian subsidiary, Alaska Trainship Corporation, and ran the Alaska Railroad service out of Delta BC, just over the US Canadian Border on the Fraser River.

The Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU) Deepwater Horizon, pictured here underway, was built in South Korea, registered in the Marshall Islands, operated by a Swiss company under contract to a British oil firm. An Insurance Adjusters Nightmare.

Primary responsibility for safety and other inspections of the Deepwater Horizon, rested not with the U.S. government but with the Republic of the Marshall Islands — a tiny, impoverished nation in the Pacific Ocean.

Here is an "in depth analysis" of the legal problems now presented vis-a-vis the Jones Act, not involving the oil spill clean up, but the actual
operation and inspection of the Deepwater Horizon.

And finally we hear from the Labor Unions, who have also been accused of stonewalling efforts to use foreign vessels for oil spill control, to" protect" American jobs.

Those behind the campaign attacking the Jones Act have two aims: To discredit the federal response to the disaster and to attack unions. They falsely state that the Jones Act is keeping ships that fly foreign flags from the Gulf operations and that the Obama administration has turned away offers of aid from many nations because the maritime unions want to skim up all the disaster-related profits. -- Mike Hall

A final thought on the "Jones Act" shell game. Partisan politics is the machine of checks and balances that keep this country humming with lively debate.

And that's good.

But to play partisan politics when the nation is faced with an unprecedented disaster, that promises no good outcome regardless if the leak is stopped in August, is reprehensible.

It is pure evil.

The lives of thousands of
your fellow Americans are being dramatically changed in ways you will never be able to comprehend. One fellow on a talk show actually said, "Why don't they just go fishing somewhere else!"

It doesn't get more callous than that.
What kind of creature could even talk that way about a fellow citizen? I don't get it. Fueled, I'm certain, by the talk show purveyors of hate.

Hundreds of miles of spectacular beaches, irreplaceable wet lands and marshes, bayous and estuaries are dead and dying. They won't be blossoming next spring!

Bob Wathen's
bpSlick Blog has aerial flights over the Gulf that will bring tears to your eyes, of dead and dying dolphins, a distressed whale, and mile after mile after mile of sickening Louisiana Light Sweet Crude.

So urge your congressional leaders to put away partisan politics and work together to get us through this ordeal.

"A House divided against itself cannot stand"
- Abraham Lincoln

See Also:
M/V Joe Griffin and the Magic Box
Tragedy in the Gulf

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