American boat patrols waters around new offshore wind farms to protect jobs

by Lucas Garcia
0 comment
offshore wind industry

American Boat Patrols Monitor Offshore Wind Farms to Safeguard Employment Opportunities

In the early morning hours this week, off the coasts of Rhode Island and New York, the signs of a burgeoning wind industry were evident. Steel tubes protruded from the ocean, awaiting the arrival of ships to lift turbines that would harness wind power for electricity generation.

Amidst this flurry of activity, an imposing battleship-gray vessel patrolled the waters. The American marine industry and its workforce are concerned about being left behind during the rapid expansion of offshore wind projects in the United States.

Aaron Smith, the president of the Offshore Marine Service Association, peered through binoculars, scrutinizing the ships servicing the new wind farms to determine if they were employing foreign-flagged vessels instead of U.S.-made ships with American crews.

Smith expressed his frustration, saying, “It really upsets me when I think about the capable American men and women who could be doing this work, while foreign nationals are employed in U.S. waters. It’s unfair.”

The vessel responsible for monitoring compliance with the Jones Act—the century-old law that mandates the use of U.S.-built, owned, and documented vessels for transporting goods between U.S. points—was named the Jones Act Enforcer. Its motto was “We’ll be watching.” Smith documented the operations to present evidence to federal law enforcement officials and members of Congress.

As part of the Offshore Marine Service Association, Smith emphasized their strong support for the offshore wind industry, with many member companies already involved. However, their current efforts were aimed at securing their future, ensuring job opportunities and investments for decades to come. To achieve its goals of significantly reducing fossil fuel dependence and combating climate change, the U.S. may require around 2,000 powerful turbines for offshore wind generation.

The Jones Act Enforcer made multiple trips to the site where Danish energy company Ørsted and utility provider Eversource were developing the South Fork Wind project. This project is likely to become the first commercially scaled wind farm in the U.S.

During the approach to the site, Smith observed a large crane ship flying the Cyprus flag, smaller Belgian-flagged vessels, as well as U.S. fishing and offshore supply vessels near the turbine bases. The Big Big News was the only media outlet aboard.

Although the U.S. fleet does not currently possess specialized ships for offshore wind installations, some of the foreign-flagged vessels operating along the East Coast are tugs and smaller supply ships. U.S. ship operators confirmed they have similar vessels capable of performing the required tasks.

Ørsted responded by stating that 75% of the vessels supporting the South Fork Wind project’s offshore construction were U.S.-flagged, including barges, tugs, crew transport vessels, and fishing vessels responsible for safety and marine mammal monitoring. However, the larger U.S.-flagged vessels designed for offshore wind installations are yet to be built. Nonetheless, Ørsted clarified that the installation vessels used in the South Fork Wind project employed American union workers.

Bryan Stockton, the head of regulatory affairs for Ørsted, stated, “While the U.S. industry continues to develop, we are designing our projects to maximize the involvement of American workers, contractors, suppliers, and vessels. We are proud that the South Fork Wind project is providing employment opportunities for hundreds of American mariners and union workers at sea.”

Ørsted assured that its offshore activities were in compliance with the Jones Act.

Smith admitted that, on that day, he did not observe any clear violations of the Jones Act or any smoking gun evidence. To make a case under the Jones Act to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the association would need to observe multiple stages of activity over weeks, if not months. They would need to witness the loading of merchandise onto a ship in port, its transportation to an offshore site, and the ship’s return when empty.

In the past, the association had also monitored oil and gas sites for foreign vessels. The Jones Act Enforcer was initially chartered from Harvey Gulf International Marine in late 2021.

Smith expressed concerns that offshore wind developers were skirting the spirit of the law. He feared that investors might hesitate to finance the construction of offshore ships if they were to face competition from foreign vessels offering lower day rates, primarily due to the potential for lower wages for foreign crews. This could lead to a cycle where developers continue to rely on foreign vessels because U.S. vessels are not available.

The association aims to break this cycle as the offshore wind industry continues to grow. Federal officials expect to review at least 16 construction and operations plans for commercial offshore wind energy facilities by 2025.

Smith commented, “That’s a tremendous amount of work that we could be doing and many well-paying jobs.”

Randy Adams, the owner of Sea Support Ventures in Cut Off, Louisiana, operates vessels for geological surveys in the oil and gas sector. He expressed a desire to expand his services to support the clean energy transition but has not yet had the opportunity.

“I’m concerned that our industry will miss out on wind farm work,” Adams said. “I can’t say we’re being shut out, but we’re certainly not at the top of the priority list.”

Smith intends to keep the Jones Act Enforcer docked in the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts until August, visiting the two commercial-scale wind farm sites. Ørsted is installing 12 turbines in the South Fork Wind project, while Vineyard Wind is constructing a 62-turbine wind farm 15 miles off the Massachusetts coast.

Vineyard Wind released a statement affirming that its project complies with all U.S. laws, including the Jones Act, and fully supports the American maritime and shipbuilding industry.

Before arriving in Massachusetts, the Jones Act Enforcer operated off the coast of Virginia, where Dominion Energy plans to establish an offshore wind farm. Smith verified if foreign vessels were conducting surveys for unexploded ordnance in the area, and he confirmed their presence, despite four member companies of the Offshore Marine Service Association submitting bids for the job.

Dominion Energy responded to the AP, stating that those vessels were not engaged in transporting merchandise between U.S. points and thus complied with the Jones Act. The company clarified that U.S. vessels were awarded contracts for surveying, scouting, equipment transportation, and technician transport.

Dominion is currently constructing the Charybdis in Texas, the first Jones Act-compliant offshore wind installation vessel, demonstrating its support for the act. Ørsted will charter this ship.

Additionally, Ørsted is investing in the Eco Edison, the first American-made offshore wind service operations vessel, currently under construction in Louisiana, and five more crew transfer vessels being built in Rhode Island.

Sam Giberga, the executive vice president and general counsel at Hornbeck Offshore Services in Covington, Louisiana, expressed initial excitement about the promise of offshore wind as a clean energy source that would create jobs and business opportunities. However, he now feels that promise is starting to fade. His company recently lost a bid to a foreign vessel.

“We are a maritime nation, always have been. This is the next great maritime frontier, and we’re being left behind,” Giberga lamented. “Why would we allow that?”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about offshore wind industry

What is the Jones Act?

The Jones Act is a century-old law that mandates the use of U.S.-built, owned, and documented vessels for transporting merchandise between U.S. points.

Why are American boat patrols monitoring offshore wind farms?

American boat patrols are monitoring offshore wind farms to ensure compliance with the Jones Act and protect domestic jobs in the marine industry. They are concerned about foreign competition and the potential impact on the future of the industry.

What are the concerns of the Offshore Marine Service Association?

The Offshore Marine Service Association is concerned that foreign-flagged vessels may be used instead of U.S.-made ships with American crews, depriving American citizens of job opportunities in offshore wind projects. They are advocating for the enforcement of the Jones Act to support the domestic workforce.

How does the offshore wind industry support American jobs?

The offshore wind industry has the potential to create thousands of jobs for American workers, including mariners, union workers, contractors, and suppliers. Companies like Ørsted are investing in American-made vessels and prioritizing the involvement of American workers in their projects.

Can foreign vessels be used in offshore wind projects?

Foreign vessels can be used in offshore wind projects if there is a waiver granted based on national defense or the unavailability of U.S. vessels. However, the Offshore Marine Service Association argues that developers should prioritize the use of American vessels to support the growth of the domestic industry and create more job opportunities.

More about offshore wind industry

You may also like

Leave a Comment


BNB – Big Big News is a news portal that offers the latest news from around the world. BNB – Big Big News focuses on providing readers with the most up-to-date information from the U.S. and abroad, covering a wide range of topics, including politics, sports, entertainment, business, health, and more.

Editors' Picks

Latest News

© 2023 BBN – Big Big News