American Maritime Officers National President Paul Doell sent the following letter in response to a Wall Street Journal editorial critical of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection proposal to modify or revoke multiple ruling letters pertaining to the application of the Jones Act. The newspaper published the letter to the editor in Monday's print and online editions.
Despite The Journal's subtle suggestion to the contrary, President Trump's support of a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposal to reverse 30 "regulatory precedents" shielding specialized foreign-flagged vessels in the Gulf of Mexico from the domestic shipping law known as the Jones Act ("Offshore Drilling Blowout Preventer," Review & Outlook, April 19) wouldn't align the president politically or ideologically with his predecessor.
As you note, this specific Jones Act exemption has been in force for 40 years. President Obama did little or nothing to encourage wider Jones Act jurisdiction in the Gulf. And, when the U.S. was drawing down crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve in 2011, the Obama administration issued a series of Jones Act waivers crafted specifically to prevent available U.S.-owned, built, documented and crewed tankers from carrying these cargoes. From this perspective, CBP's proposal two days before President Obama's departure appears more like the agency's thoughtful anticipation of a constructive change of presidential heart than a bureaucracy "riding herd."
Without question the Jones Act is consistent with President Trump's "Buy American, Hire American" credo. This law stands on conspicuous merit as an economic, defense mobilization and homeland-security asset sustained by private investment. Broader Jones Act application in the Gulf of Mexico would enhance the law's already substantial value at no cost to the government, and I doubt the "global and mobile" offshore drilling industry you refer to will go hungry as a consequence.
The opinions expressed herein are the author's and not necessarily those of The Maritime Executive.