The U.S. maritime industry has “ample capacity” to transport petroleum from the Gulf of Mexico to the Northeast, the American Maritime Partnership said.
The AMP responded Wednesday to federal concern that Jones Act vessels might be in “short supply” if refinery closures in the Northeast crimped fuel supply chains.
Fuel companies Sunoco and ConocoPhillips plan to close or sell money-losing three refineries in Pennsylvania this summer, including a major refinery in Philadelphia.
The Energy Information Administration study did not consider tank barges, including articulated tug barges, capable of transporting petroleum, the AMP said.
The EIA’s analysis “understated the American tank vessel capacity by approximately 50 percent,” the AMP’s directors said in a letter (PDF) to Energy Secretary Steven Chu.
The maritime partnership also sent its March 28 letter to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
“A large American tank vessel fleet of modern and highly sophisticated vessels exists in this country to move petroleum products,” the organization said.
Last month, Jones Act carriers said they were ready to haul oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve if President Obama decides to tap the Gulf Coast supply.
Fuel markets would quickly adapt to any additional refinery closures in the Northeast, the AMP said, increasing pipeline shipments, imports and production.
“Once all American tank vessel capacity is considered, there is ample capacity to address changes in petroleum product markets,” the organization said.
Under the Jones Act, only U.S. flag ships may carry cargo between U.S. ports. The federal government can issue a waiver if no U.S. ship is available.
The maritime group doesn't believe shipping petroleum to the Northeast by barge would affect fuel prices.
This week, the national average retail gasoline price climbed half a cent to $3.918 a gallon, up 32 cents from a year ago, according to the EIA.