OMSA: Don’t cede U.S. maritime jobs to foreign interests

The U.S. domestic maritime industry is a critical component to the nation’s economic and national security. One would think that few would find fault with U.S. job creation or protection of our national interests, particularly when those interests are at stake.

However, recent accusations by international actors threaten this foundation while disrupting U.S. sovereignty in implementation of law.

In January, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a notice that would correct previous misinterpretations of the Jones Act, which requires U.S.-built, -owned and -crewed ships to be used for the transportation of merchandise from one U.S. point to another U.S. point, as applicable to the offshore marine sector. This correction would return more than 3,200 jobs to the Gulf Coast, generate more than $700 million in annual economic output, and provide more than 1,000 mariners ready to answer the call of the U.S. military if needed. Moreover, this would be accomplished without disrupting or impeding offshore energy exploration or production given the recent $2 billion in investments by U.S. companies.

However, foreign interests are lining up against the CBP to take these U.S. jobs away from U.S. workers, for the sole benefit of lining their own pocketbooks.

Put on the defensive, these foreign entities are dubiously asserting that the CBP’s correct interpretation of the Jones Act will make those operating in this field less safe. Nothing could be further from the truth. By using the U.S. vessels that have been built for this purpose by U.S. shipyards, operations can be performed by a single vessel. Using a single vessel eliminates the need to conduct inherently risky offshore vessel-to-vessel transfers, which is currently the only Jones Act-compliant option for foreign vessels.

Additionally, since CBP signaled in 2009 that this ruling would be forthcoming, the U.S. offshore marine sector has invested more than $2 billion to ensure that offshore oil and gas exploration and production would not be affected. The 31 vessels constructed and retrofitted to meet this need are U.S. built, owned and crewed, and are subject to some of the most stringent safety standards in the world.

That safety is even being discussed as a result of the CBP’s revocation is a purposeful obfuscation by these foreign entities.

While foreign interests are eager to disrupt, delay, and tamper with this correct revocation process by the CBP, they continue to ignore the reality that U.S. companies have the necessary capacity to safely fulfill the work currently being provided by a foreign fleet. (The foreign fleet uses cheap foreign labor while diverting fair taxation and creating an uneven playing field for U.S. companies.)

In another desperate attempt to prevent U.S. law from being enforced, these foreign companies argue that this ruling by CBP has been rushed in an effort to tamper and obstruct the correct process for implementation.

Nearly eight years is more than enough time for the federal government to assess the impact of the ruling. It is neither hurried nor cavalier. Waiting any longer would be an egregious delay of the restoration of U.S. jobs to the U.S. economy.

Supported by every modern U.S. president to date, the Jones Act is the law of the land. It is an effective and proven “Buy American, Hire American” statute that ensures domestic shipbuilding and seafaring capability essential for U.S. national and economic security.

Standing behind U.S. jobs, U.S. security, and the sovereignty of the nation is the very backbone of this nation. The U.S. domestic maritime industry applauds CBP for their recent action. When America’s interests are placed first, there is no other path forward. And now is not the time to put foreign interests first.

About the author

Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith is the president and CEO of New Orleans-based Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA), the trade association for owners and operators of U.S.-flag vessels that service the oil and gas infrastructure on the Outer Continental Shelf.


  1. Avatar
    Kenny Bosarge on

    Jones Act must be protected. U.S. built.
    Also the adjustment of the capital construction fund to allow the use of capital construction funds for use in the
    inland waterways. A number of companies that operate in the Gulf of Mexico oil fields have capital construction funds they could use in the inland waterways. Of the over 3,000 push boats operating inland, over 2,000 are over 25 years old. Also lobby for ITC to be brought back for LNG push boats, Clean the environment, use US gas
    build new fueling stations. Its all right in front of us. The fuel of the future is LNG. LNG only not dual fuel.
    New investments of Capital Construction Funds. Modern fleets, safer vessel, new industry, cleaner environment.
    We have the designs.

  2. Avatar

    Thanks for speaking out for the retention of the Jones Act Aaron. Safety of our American homeland and our maritime industry jobs are more critical than ever.

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