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U.S. becoming an unattractive place to do business? - IMCA

4C Offshore | Chris Anderson
By: Chris Anderson 21/11/2023 Chris Anderson

The American Offshore Workers Fairness Act in the U.S. from Senator Cassidy has undergone scrutiny from IMCA - International Marine Contractors Association and have published a document highlighting what they call Myths that the legislative proposal is based on.    

The American Offshore Worker Fairness Act (AOWFA) aims to limit the number of non-U.S. citizens working on foreign-flagged vessels in the United States. The proposed amendments will mostly impact on foreign-flagged wind turbine installation vessels (WTIVs) in particular as well as the specialist crews required to perform the installations.


The proposed amendments would require that crews of foreign-flagged vessels engaged in offshore energy activities in U.S. waters are either U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents or citizens of the vessel’s flag nation. It would require foreign mariners serving in U.S. waters to secure a Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) as well as cancel all current letters of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA, also known as the “Jones Act”) non-applicability six months after approval.


It will also require foreign vessels to reapply for new letters based on current ownership, and limit OCSLA non-applicability to 12 months as well as limit the number of foreign mariners receiving a visa for work on a specific vessel to 2.5 times the number of persons permitted by the vessel. Finally, it would require the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) to inspect foreign vessels annually with heavy fines for those found to be in breach as well as empower it to notify the Secretary of State of each exemption to ensure that only those foreign mariners who meet the requirements for a visa are issued with one.


IMCA attacks the proposal as fundamentally flawed, explaining that though the amendments appear to offer protections for American crews and vessels, as well as protecting their rate of pay, it is in fact overlooking several issues that would adversely impact the U.S. Government’s offshore energy goals and targets.


IMCA further claim that the U.S. offshore wind industry is not ready to take on this work, so it makes no sense to try to preserve specialist work for a domestic fleet which simply does not exist right now, nor one that is unlikely to exist in the near future.


Furthermore, considering the recent announcements by Developers, include Ørsted and Avangrid, to terminate offshore wind projects due to rising costs, permitting frustrations, and supply chain challenges, among many others, now is not the time to consider crewing legislation.


Any version of AWOFA presents unnecessary uncertainty and acutely compounds the existing obstacles that offshore wind developers are currently facing and struggling to overcome and should be rejected.


The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) CEO Iain Grainger said: “This proposed legislation ignores the reality for offshore delivery in wind markets around the globe. There is a worldwide shortage of specialist vessels, a limited talent pool with the skills, knowledge and experience required to operate them safely, and huge demands driven by the move to Net Zero and energy security concerns.


“The U.S. government has ambitious targets for 30GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030 which will be unachievable without the specialist knowledge, skills and construction vessels provided by international marine contractors who – uniquely – operate on a global basis moving from project-to-project.


“As with previous attempts to change the status quo, we’d urge legislators in the U.S. to look beyond simplistic rhetoric to explore the more complex and nuanced realities of our industry.


“IMCA Members are supportive of the Jones Act. A tightening of restrictions on offshore workers will simply result in the U.S. becoming an unattractive place to do business to the detriment of America’s energy ambitions and strategy.”


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