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Home Associations American Offshore Workers Fairness Act Statement from IMCA’s CEO

American Offshore Workers Fairness Act Statement from IMCA’s CEO

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Iain Grainger

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.


Viewers can read here below the “mythbusters” :



Topic FAQs:

What is the American Offshore Worker Fairness Act (AOWFA)? 

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) as well as the specialist crews required to perform the installations. 

What amendments are being proposed? 

The 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. 

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.

What are these issues? 

The amendment implies that the interests of American crews are being overlooked for the benefit of non-U.S. staff who are less compensated and who don’t have to pay tax in the United States, but that is inaccurate.

Offshore construction/installation vessels are extremely specialised, often moving from project-to-project around the globe and require crews with significant experience and expertise which takes years to develop.  

Foreign vessels are not competing with U.S. vessels based on crew earnings or type of vessel. The cost of building and operating a U.S. vessel is significantly higher than a foreign vessel, far more than the difference between the cost of wages for U.S. and foreign crews, but when there is no domestic capability foreign vessels are the only option.

The reality is that there is currently a shortage of U.S. mariners causing American companies to struggle to man existing fleets. Many more American mariners will be needed to crew the numerous categories of vessels required to support current and future offshore oil and gas and wind projects. The majority of these vessels are flagged in small nations with few available mariners and expert personnel.

The proposed legislation would essentially require a vessel to replace its entire crew with untrained and inexperienced U.S. mariners, who are in fact unavailable. It is hard to see how this can be achieved safely and these international companies will simply seek to work in other markets, where there are fewer hiring restrictions.  

Would rejecting this give foreign workers advantages over U.S. ones? 

The main issue surrounding the amendment is that it does not consider the lack of appropriate personnel or vessels for U.S. offshore operations. This means that any restrictions to the numbers of foreign specialised workers will simply mean the robust pipeline of offshore energy projects will not be completed and ambitions for offshore wind in the U.S. will not be fulfilled.

The proposal attempts to establish a threshold of lifting capability or specified offshore wind components for certain installation work by installation vessels that would not be subject to the crewing requirements. Simply put, there is limited U.S. crane, survey vessel and cablelay or pipelay vessel capability to perform any significant domestic work in the offshore wind sector.

The same applies to the crewing exemptions. Currently an exemption is valid indefinitely until there is a change in ownership so, a company should be required to annually re-certify if it continues to qualify for an exemption. Furthermore, more offshore boardings of foreign vessels would help ensure compliance with the law as it currently stands.  

Nor is there any reason to link a worker’s visa to a particular vessel because it would be unlawful for a worker issued an OCS visa to work aboard a vessel that has not been issued a vessel exemption. 

Additional measures causing obstacles include the requirement for the Transportation Worker Identification Card (TWIC) which will be required by the Maritime Transportation Security Act for workers who need unescorted access to secure maritime facilities and vessels. This is unnecessary as the vessels in question have no secure areas for which a TWIC would be required. Every foreign crewman goes through comprehensive security vetting at a US embassy before obtaining a visa, making a second screening necessary. 

Why is this in the news again? 

The current amendment to AOWFA has meant that the discussion has returned for a second year, at a time when the offshore wind industry needs all the support it can get. Instead, we are facing potential measures that will slow down U.S. progress for renewable energy efforts.

What is IMCA doing about this? 

To bolster the industry and support its Members, IMCA is engaging with policymakers and other energy stakeholders around the current amendments.

If these amendments pass, it will significantly impact the American targets to install 30GW of offshore wind turbines and impact all offshore energy projects in the United States.  

The reality is 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.  

Where can I find out more?

Read IMCA’s Myth Busting document (attached) for policymakers and U.S. energy stakeholders which explores these issues, and others, in more detail.

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