Jones Act carriers say they are ready to haul oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve if President Obama decides to tap the Gulf Coast supply to dampen high fuel prices.
The American Maritime Partnership on Monday told the departments of Homeland Security and Energy that they would work with them to provide Jones Act-qualified vessels. Obama could tap the reserve if Iran squeezes oil supply to the U.S. by closing the Strait of Hormuz.
Carriers were angered after the Energy Department and the Maritime Administration granted Jones Act waivers that allowed foreign-flag vessels to move 30 billion barrels of oil from the reserve in August. The tapping of the reserve was part of an international effort to stabilize the market during the civil war in Libya.
Under the Jones Act, only U.S. flag ships, built in the U.S. and crewed by U.S. citizens, may carry cargo between U.S. ports. The government can issue a waiver if no U.S. ship is available. Last summer nearly all of the SPR contracts went to foreign vessels that got waivers. Jones Act carriers protested that millions of barrels of capacity were available.
After the sale, Congress made a new law that DHA “takes adequate measures to ensure the use of United States flag vessels,” which includes consultation with the domestic maritime industry.