The chief executive of Overseas Shipholding Group, the largest U.S.-flag tanker operator, said U.S. carriers won't object to allowing foreign companies to provide equipment needed to clean up crude oil from the underwater gusher in the Gulf of Mexico.
"If there is any piece of equipment that will help clean up the spill in the Gulf, as the biggest operator of Jones Act tankers in the Gulf we will encourage the Obama administration to let these vessels in. We will not stand in the way whatsoever," OSG's Morten Arntzen told the annual Marine Money International conference in New York. Arntzen said one of OSG's tankers is shuttling recovered oil from the blowout site to shore.
In the wake of the explosion and sinking of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, newly elected Rep. Charles Djon, R-Hawaii, urged the Obama administration to suspend the Jones Act to allow non-U.S.-flag vessels to aid in the cleanup. The Jones Act restricts U.S. domestic shipping to U.S.-flag, U.S.-owned vessels that are built in the U.S. and crewed by American citizens. "There is no good reason to turn away international help in response to this environmental catastrophe," he said.
Djon's proposal was criticized by Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, who said it was "more about pushing a political agenda than any genuine interest in helping Gulf Coast communities with their cleanup."
U.S.-flag carriers and maritime unions have successfully fought off efforts to weaken or repeal the Jones Act, which has been on the books since 1920, but the Maritime Administration has granted temporary waivers to the law in response to special circumstances and emergencies, such as Hurricane Katrina.
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