The Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) has released a new video it says documents and denounces the continued lies of energy developers pursuing offshore wind projects while forsaking U.S. mariners.

Source: Justice Must be Served from OMSA on Vimeo.

Over the last several years, offshore wind developers have hired dozens of foreign vessels and hundreds of foreign crews instead of U.S. vessels and crews, all while begging for tax credits from the U.S. government. The enhanced profit the wind developers saved by using foreign crews is costing U.S. jobs and putting national security and sovereignty at risk, OMSA officials said in a statement earlier this week.

In 2020, Dominion Energy stated it would employ U.S.-flagged vessels for unexploded ordnance (UXO) surveys as they conducted pre-construction work on an offshore wind development off the coast of Virginia, OMSA said. 

Dominion Energy solicited bids from the U.S. maritime industry, receiving at least four offers from U.S. vessel operators, which included Virginia residents with expertise in subsea munitions, yet these competitive and qualified bids were not accepted, OMSA said. Instead of utilizing these qualified U.S vessels and their capable U.S. crews — as they had told Congress they would do — Dominion Energy chose two foreign-flagged and crewed vessels for this work, OMSA said.

Asked if Dominion's actions were in violation of the Jones Act, Aaron Smith, OMSA's president, said in an email, "We’re not sure. There could be a violation of the Jones Act, if they are utilizing foreign-flagged vessels to transport unexploded ordnance. However, the more immediate issue is that they are exploiting loopholes in the crewing laws so foreign-flagged vessels can operate at a price point that U.S. vessels can legally not meet because the foreign-flagged vessels are employing Russian crewmembers and the U.S. -lagged vessels are legally required to utilize American crewmembers."

The work will begin in the coming weeks using former U.S.-flag vessels the Subsea Responder and Subsea Responder II, which OMSA officials describe as “dated” and “inferior.”

“These inferior vessels were reflagged from the U.S. to the Marshall Islands, a ‘flag of convenience’ often used by vessel owners looking to skirt regulatory or tax requirements,” the OMSA statement said. “In the case of the Subsea Responder I, the owner continued to market the vessel as a Jones Act vessel, months after removing the U.S. flag. The foreign operators employed Russian mariners to complete the work in U.S. waters, while racking up a documented safety record with failed assessments.”

“This is the most blatant example I’ve ever seen of an energy developer exploiting loopholes in U.S. law, to line their pockets while costing around 100 U.S. citizens their jobs," Smith said. “Dominion had their pick from multiple ready and capable U.S. vessels — U.S. vessels they told Congress they would be using. Instead, they picked some bottom-of-the-barrel foreign-flagged vessels and gave jobs that should have gone to American mariners to foreign nationals.”

Dominion disputes OMSA’s claims, telling WorkBoat in an email, “We follow a competitive and thorough review process to contract with vessels performing survey work for Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind. We require the firms performing work on our behalf to comply with all laws, codes and regulations, including the Jones Act.”

But Smith and OMSA are adament. “This has to stop. The only way it will stop is for Congress to pass legislation requiring foreign vessels to play on the same playing field as U.S. vessels, Smith said. "All the while, American mariners and maritime companies have come to the table with solutions, compromises, and pathways forward that would allow U.S. mariners and shipyard workers a fair opportunity to compete without harming offshore markets.

"Yet, despite our willingness to negotiate, Big Oil and Big Wind continue to peddle lies to Congress to preserve their ability to exploit low-wage, foreign workers at the expense of Americans. It’s simple. America’s natural resources should lead to American jobs, not larger profits for foreign investors, and certainly not benefits for adversarial nations.”

OMSA officials are calling for Congress to bring parity between U.S.-flagged and foreign-flagged vessels operating in U.S. offshore energy markets by passing the American Offshore Worker Fairness Act (AOWFA). This would ensure that U.S. energy creation means U.S. jobs, according to OMSA.


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