IMCA takes action as countdown to deadline for submission on the Jones Act changes draws close – 2 days to go

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Myth – Only the inspection, repair and maintenance (IRM) market is affected

The International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) is selecting a key fact-a-day on the 7-day countdown to the April 18, 2017 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) comment submission deadline, to highlight the potential risks if CBP revokes 40 years of precedent as reflected in its own rulings. Rulings that have brought decades of stability and billions of dollars in investment to the oil and gas industry in the Gulf of Mexico.

IMCA issued its vessel impact report on April 4, 2017 and it is crammed with information and facts and figures showing that the U.S. coastwise fleet is unable, on its own, to support activities in the deepwater market.

  • Myth: Revocations will only affect the IRM market.
  • Fact: This is incorrect. The revocations will affect all non-coastwise qualified construction, installation and maintenance vessels.

Most offshore operations require some incidental movement, such as lateral movement to comply with good safe and efficient operating practices. For example, to move a safe distance away from a construction site to lower equipment close to the seabed and then moving back for the final landing position on the seabed. This minimises the risk of any dropped objects damaging sensitive equipment.

CBP has not defined “incidental movement” but has long held that non-coastwise-qualified vessels loading and unload cargo or constructing or dismantling a marine structure are not violating the Jones Act where movement of merchandise is effected exclusively by crane and not by movement of the vessel, except for necessary movement which is incidental to a lifting operation while it is taking place. 

Recently, CBP has applied this restriction to lifting operations. This makes no practical sense because this is clearly not a transportation movement. Unfortunately, this issue remains unresolved and has far reaching impacts on offshore operations. Although the CBP Notice includes revocation of a ruling that addresses incidental movement, it is unclear what, if any, impact such revocation will have on incidental movement overall.  Ultimately, to prohibit such movement would impose potentially serious safety hazards and effectively stop such work.