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The Jones Act - a new enforcer on the block

The Jones Act - a new enforcer on the block
Observers of the US maritime scene are set to become familiar with a new acronym - JADE - a newly established office within the New Orleans field office of the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) tasked with enforcement of the Jones Act.

The National Jones Act Division of Enforcement (JADE), “will work in partnership with industry stakeholders in the enforcement of the Jones Act, along with all other coastwise trade laws” according to a CBP announcement. The Jones Act is a set of cabotage rules, long a part of US Federal law, that require vessels operating in certain trades, notably coastwise and inland, to be US built, owned and manned.

The law Washington, DC- based law firm Winston & Strawn, at the center of much of the maritime action in the U.S. capital, explained that: “At a March 9, 2016, hearing before the US Senate Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana stated that he had worked ‘with CBP and our Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA)’ on Jones Act enforcement, which he said needed to be stepped up. CBP Deputy Commissioner Kevin McAleenan responded that CBP was committed to increased enforcement and that CBP was looking to review and update prior Jones Act rulings.”

Offshore service providers, including many boat owners, are the fulcrum of the organisation referred to, known as OMSA, based in New Orleans. For many years, OMSA has expressed concern about incursions by non Jones Act compliant vessels into the oil service sector in the Gulf of Mexico. In particular, OMSA supported enactment of tougher rules on the transportation of equipment out to rigs and platforms working in the US Outer Continental Shelf in the Gulf of Mexico.

The establishment of JADE comes at a time that the oil business, generally, is thought to have turned a corner and is in the early stages of a recovery. JADE also comes on the scene just as a different facet of the offshore energy sector is gaining traction; plans are moving ahead for a second offshore wind farm to be installed by Deepwater Wind LLC in waters off the eastern part of Long Island (New York State). The same developer has already gained approvals to operate a facility of the coast of Rhode Island.

As this new phase of the US offshore business develops, there will likely be questions of what trades and activities require Jones Act compliant vessels. In April, a US built crew vessel specifically for the wind farm trades, was delivered from Blount Boats, a shipyard in Rhode Island.