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Jones Act owners make the case for change

Tue 28 Mar 2017 by David Foxwell

Jones Act owners make the case for change

OSJ has looked at the proposed changes to the Jones Act that Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) in the US is contemplating on a number of occasions recently. We’ve also looked at the possible implications of any changes.

What we haven’t had a chance to do, until now, is take a look at whether there really are enough Jones Act vessels of the right type to carry out work in the Gulf of Mexico if international – mostly Norwegian – vessels are banned.

I’m indebted to the Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) in the US for providing some figures. OMSA firmly believes that there are sufficient Jones Act-qualified construction/inspection maintenance and repair (IMR) vessels that can carry out the activity currently being undertaken by foreign vessels. As I noted before, OMSA also claims that following a 2009 notice from CBP, US owners invested more than US$2 billion to build or retrofit 30 vessels to service the subsea needs identified by CBP.

I’m focusing here on construction/IMR vessels because the CBP notice will most directly affect the operations of deepwater subsea construction/IMR ships, along with shallow water liftboats and construction barges. According to the IHS Petrodata Construction Vessel database, an average of 19.8 vessels were working in the Gulf Coast region over past five years.

“Thirty‐one vessels is more than enough to perform the necessary work on the Outer Continental Shelf taken by a foreign fleet,” says OMSA of the Jones Act fleet of vessels, noting that these vessels are typically equipped with a subsea rated active heave compensated crane of 50-250 tonnes. The vessels are dynamic positioning units, usually DP2, and are equipped with one or more remotely operated vehicles (ROV), have a helideck and accommodation for 30-80 people.

OMSA’s data suggests that as of the writing of its report, there were 27 construction/IMR vessels in the Gulf of Mexico that have a crane of 50 tonnes or greater, ROVs and have DP. Of these, 19 are Jones Act qualified, most of which were constructed or retrofitted since the 2009 CBP revocation notice. In addition, five Jones Act-qualified vessels are currently operational outside the US but could operate in the Gulf of Mexico, given their Jones Act compliance. Another seven Jones Act-qualified vessels are under construction in the US are due to be delivered between the summer of 2017 and mid/late 2018. So, by mid-2018, says OMSA, there will be a total of 31 US-flag, US-built, Jones Act-qualified construction/IMR vessels available for operations in the Gulf of Mexico.

According to the IHS Petrodata Construction Vessel database, between January 2012 and 22 February 2017, a total of 37 international construction/IMR vessels worked in the US part of the Gulf of Mexico. As highlighted above, on average, 19.8 vessels were present and working in each of the five years 2012‐2016.

“Given the growth of the Jones Act fleet of construction/IMR vessels, the need for foreign tonnage has all but disappeared. There should be no impact on operations in the Gulf of Mexico as the Jones Act-qualified fleet has effectively replaced the foreign fleet,” OMSA concluded.

Among the DP2, Jones Act vessels it lists are the following:

  • HOS Warland, 250-tonne crane, built 2016
  • HOS Woodland, 250-tonne crane, 2016
  • Harvey DeepSea, 165-tonne crane, built 2013
  • Harvey Intervention, 165-tonne crane, built 2016
  • Kirt Chouest, 165-tonne crane, built 2008
  • Dove, 150-tonne crane, built 2015
  • HOS Bayou, 150-tonne crane, built 2014
  • Ocean Alliance, 150-tonne crane, built 2011
  • CInstaller, 150-tonne crane, built 2014
  • Chloe Candies, 100-tonne crane, built 2006
  • Grant Candies, 100-tonne crane, built 2008
  • HOS Mystique, 100-tonne crane, built 2008
  • Ross Candies, 100-tonne crane, built 2009
  • SURF Challenger, 100-tonne crane, built 2007
  • Ocean Intervention II, 73-tonne crane, built 1999
  • Harvey Discovery, 64-tonne crane, built 2006
  • AMC Ambassador, 60-tonne crane, built 1998
  • Brandon Bordelon, 60-tonne crane, built 2015
  • Ocean Intervention, 54-tonne crane, built 1998.

Vessels under construction include the following:

  • Ocean Evolution, 250-tonne crane, built 2017
  • Paul Candies, 250-tonne crane, built 2017
  • Harvey SubSea, 250-tonne crane, built 2017
  • Harvey BlueSea, 250-tonne crane, built 2017
  • HOS Warhorse, 250-tonne crane, built 2018
  • HOS Wild Horse, 250-tonne crane, built 2018
  • Bordelon 104,TBD, 2018.

Jones Act construction/IMR vessels outside the Gulf of Mexico include:

  • Holiday, 150-tonne crane, built 2010
  • Kelly Ann, 100-tonne crane, built 2012
  • Wyatt Candies, 100-tonne crane, built 2012
  • HOS Ridgewind, 70-tonne crane, built 2015
  • Shelia Bordelon, 50-tonne crane, built 2015.

So, given this number of vessels, and their crane capacity, and setting aside any views you might have about the Jones Act and cabotage markets, is OMSA correct in its analysis, or are there other issues to consider if change comes to the Gulf of Mexico? I’d be interested to know what you think.

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