Congress gave Jones Act carriers further assurance that they will ship oil from the U.S. oil reserves if needed, not foreign-flag carriers.
The Senate appropriations committee on Tuesday approved legislation directing the federal government “to take adequate measures to ensure the use of United States flag vessels” if the Strategic Petroleum Reserve on the Gulf Coast is tapped. Jones Act carriers were livid last summer after learning the Maritime Administration approved transport waivers to foreign-flag carriers during the Libyan oil crisis.
The committee also expressed concerns over the “lack of transparency” Marad showed in granting the waivers. The Senate action parallels a bipartisan House bill passed last week that requires Marad to publicize the availability of Jones Act vessels when another agency asks to use non-U.S.-flag vessels.
Jones Act carriers have readied themselves for the potential transport of oil from reserves on coastwise routes as President Obama has faced pressure to help dampen rising fuel costs. Such pressure has lessened as diesel and gasoline prices have fallen after steadily rising in the first three months of the year.