White House Signals Openness to Jones Act Waivers

White House Signals Openness to Jones Act Waivers
The century-old Jones Act requires that ships carrying goods between USA ports be built in the USA and crewed by American workers.

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration is open to waiving domestic shipping restrictions to allow foreign tankers to transport fuel to areas with shortages due to the Colonial Pipeline Co. outage, the White House said Wednesday.

The century-old Jones Act requires that ships carrying goods between U.S. ports be built in the U.S. and crewed by American workers. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the government would consider waiver requests, but stopped short of saying the administration would grant them.

“The Department of Homeland Security stands ready to review any temporary Jones Act waiver requests from companies that demonstrate there is not sufficient capacity on Jones Act-qualified vessels to carry fuel to the affected region,” Psaki said in a statement.

The Biden administration took the first step toward offering exemptions on Tuesday, when the U.S. Maritime Administration announced it was surveying vessels qualified to carry petroleum products between U.S. ports. Psaki said the agency had completed its review, which looked at routes around the Gulf of Mexico and up the Eastern Seaboard.

Waiving Jones Act requirements could allow foreign-flagged tankers to fill the supply gap left by the closed pipeline. It would take six to seven days for a tanker to travel from the Gulf Coast to deliver fuel to New York Harbor.

The American Maritime Partnership, a group that represents U.S.-flagged ship owners, indicated it is open to such an approach.

“The American Maritime Partnership does not object to a targeted approach to issuing waivers when there is a legitimate need and when such action does not reward foreign maritime operators who would game the system at the expense of American jobs and national security,” Mike Roberts, the group’s president, said in a statement.

--With assistance from Ari Natter and Jennifer A. Dlouhy.

© 2021 Bloomberg L.P.



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David Elsteroth  |  May 13, 2021
The Jones Act is a federal law that gives seamen who were injured in the course of their employment the right to sue their employer for personal injury damages. Unlike almost all land-based workers, seamen are not entitled to workers' compensation benefits under either state or federal law.