What about the Jones Act?

With all the talk out of Washington about more regulation, especially for drilling in what may soon be the late, great Gulf of Mexico, you have to wonder what happened to so many other rules and regulations once passed with gusto. What good are they if no one enforces them?

A case in point came up at a House committee hearing last week on “Foreign Vessel Operations in the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone.” That meant lots of talk about the Jones Act, which most Americans never heard of before the oil spill, and about how the Deepwater Horizon was built in South Korea and flagged in the Marshall Islands.

Ken Wells, president of the Offshore Marine Service Association, honed in on the Jones Act itself and the people who are supposed to oversee it. “We see the Jones Act being eroded, and despite the urgings of Congress, we don’t see the Department of Homeland Security doing very much about it.”

He cited DHS’s decision to not release a controversial proposal to restrict foreign-flag vessel operations in the Gulf and instead release it as a proposed rulemaking, “almost guaranteeing it would drag on for years.”

Overall, Wells said of the Jones Act and the federal government, “they are not enforcing it effectively, they are not acting on cases that are brought before them, and they are not acting on interpretive matters that are pending.”

Of course, all this may be irrelevant if the anti-drilling crowd prevails and the moratorium goes well beyond six months, so there’ll be little work for U.S.-flagged offshore service vessels in U.S. waters — at least until offshore wind and other alternative energy projects become a reality. Even then —whether oil, gas or wind — should we wait up for enforcement?

About the author

Dale K. DuPont

Dale DuPont has been a correspondent for WorkBoat since 1998. She has worked at daily and weekly newspapers in Texas, Maryland, and most recently as a business writer and editor at The Miami Herald, covering the cruise, marine and other industries. She and her husband once owned a weekly newspaper in Cooperstown, N.Y., across the alley from the Baseball Hall of Fame. A South Florida resident, she enjoys sailing on Biscayne Bay, except in hurricane season.

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