Legislation being considered in the US could require a report to be submitted to Congress about the availability of offshore wind vessels and could be used as the basis of policy-making.
The report is to assess the need for vessels “to install, operate, and maintain emerging offshore energy infrastructure, including offshore wind energy.”
A partner at law firm Winston & Strawn LLP, Charlie Papavizas, told OWJ the report must include an inventory of currently available vessels that have the potential “to install, operate, and maintain such emerging offshore energy infrastructure,” to project the need for additional vessels over the next 10 years, and to make “policy recommendations to ensure the vessel capacity to support such emerging offshore energy.”
As Mr Papavizas noted, although the US has been a world leader in offshore oil and gas development, offshore renewable development has largely occurred elsewhere. However, the US is poised for substantial growth in offshore wind with 13 existing commercial leases off the US east coast from Massachusetts to North Carolina in various stages of permitting and more leases to be offered in the coming months.
Major international renewable energy development companies are among the leaseholders, and European companies with significant experience in construcing and operating offshore windfarms are entering the US market.
As previously highlighted by OWJ, which vessels will be utilised for constructing and maintaining US offshore windfarms is affected by the application of the Jones Act, a law and related laws that restrict US domestic maritime commerce to qualified US registered (that is, US-flag) vessels.
“Although much is known from oil and gas administrative precedents and two offshore wind administrative precedents regarding the application of the Jones Act, many issues remain,” Mr Papavizas said. “Presumably, the Secretary of Transportation will address some of these issues in order to assess current and future vessel needs.”
On 15 May 2019, the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation included the offshore wind-related amendment in the pending Maritime Administration Authorization and Enhancement Act which the Committee reported favourably for Senate consideration.
The amendment was offered by Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts and accepted by the Commerce Committee in a mark-up of the MARAD authorisation bill without debate.
The amendment, if it becomes law, will require the Secretary of Transportation, in consultation with the Secretary of Interior and the Secretary of Energy, to submit a report to Congress within six months of enactment on vessel availability and needs.
The MARAD authorisation bill has historically been included in the Department of Defense authorisation bill which usually becomes law prior to the beginning of the new fiscal year on 1 October.