US shipyards and marine transportation industries had a double boost following the inauguration of President Joe Biden
Mr Biden signed an executive order formally confirming his administration’s policy to strongly support US maritime workers and businesses serving domestic trades under the Jones Act.
This executive order reiterates the requirement for transportation of merchandise between two US points is carried on US built, owned, and crewed vessels.
Jones Act promotes the maintenance of the US maritime industrial base, ensuring US jobs are not shipped overseas and the nation’s defence capabilities and readiness not outsourced to foreign nations.
Earlier, Mr Biden’s nominee for secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, affirmed his support to the Jones Act.
Mr Buttigieg said Jones Act was “so important to a maritime industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs and the shipbuilding industry”.
He also pledged to carry out the administration’s ambitious plans to rebuild US transportation infrastructure, including its waterways, which require billions of dollars of upgrades.
Mr Buttigieg’s confirmation will support an estimated 650,000 workers in the US domestic maritime industry.
American Maritime Partnership (AMP) said it supports industry contributing US$154Bn to the nation’s economic growth annually.
AMP president Mike Roberts welcomed the administration’s support of the Jones Act.
“While it is no surprise that the Biden administration supports critical US industries such as American maritime, this executive order is an extremely important and timely statement of the administration’s policy,” Mr Roberts said.
“With this order, American maritime will have greater confidence for the next several years to make investments in US vessels and maritime infrastructure while furthering environmental stewardship, efficiency and support of our homeland and national security objectives.”
All this came as the US Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MARAD) made available US$19.6M in federal funding to support US shipyards. This small shipyard grant programme will support many yards building tugs, inland waterway towboats and push boats, workboats and articulated tug-barge units.
It is for shipyards with fewer than 1,200 production employees and is limited to no more than 75% of the estimated improvement costs. Shipyards have until 25 February 2021 to apply to MARAD for these grants, which will be awarded by 26 April.
These grants could support capital and related improvements, upgrades and investment in equipment, enabling ship construction, repair, and reconfiguration, or to support maritime and shipyard training.
Investment is needed to improve US waterway’s infrastructure as many of the 239 locks and dams along 40,000 km of inland waterways require maintenance and upgrades. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), US administrations have under-invested in waterway infrastructure, resulting in malfunctioning locks and transportation delays.
In a note, ASCE recommended US Congress provide funding to authorised inland waterway projects through the Energy and Water Development Appropriations Act.
“Robust funding to repair and replace locks and dams will provide nearly immediate value to the economy and ultimately support the US agricultural sector and other industries that rely on the waterways to get goods to market,” ASCE said.
There was good news for transportation group Crowley as one of its subsidiaries secured a contract for fuels transportation and distribution services in the Canadian Arctic region. Crowley Solutions was awarded a US$15M contract from US Defense Logistics Agency-Energy (DLA-Energy) to supply fuel for five years through ocean transportation to the Canada North Warning System locations.
Services will include tanker and barge transport and lighterage-to-barge deliveries at shore. These will supply fuel to 21 radar sites, which make up the North Warning System, spanning the Arctic from Labrador to the Alaska border.
Crowley will work in collaboration with the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) Marine Transportation Services Division to deliver fuels via barge.
GNWT assistant deputy minister, programs and services John Vandenberg said this joint programme will ensure fuel reaches these defence stations.
“Our modernised tug-barge fleet will couple with Crowley’s tank vessels and other assets to meet and exceed the growing demands of the western Canadian Arctic,” he said.
Another provider of cargo transportation in Alaska has increased its fleet through an acquisition. Seattle-based SeaTac Marine Services has purchased a 2010-built barge from Signet Marine. Atlas can transport 11,000 tonnes of cargo and will be used on regular routes between Seward and Anchorage, both in Alaska, after an upgrade.
In Louisiana, Turn Services has completed its acquisition of Bayou Fleet. This includes fleeting, shifting, dry cargo and liquid barge cleaning services on the Lower Mississippi River from its base in Hahnville, Louisiana.
Jones Act supports around 40,000 vessels transporting around 1Bn tons of cargo annually, representing a quarter of the US freight, along US internal waterways, across the Great Lakes, and over the oceans to Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the US territories.
Shipped goods include a variety of products, from raw materials and commodities like coal and crude oil to consumer products that fill the shelves of grocery stores nationwide.
“The Jones Act represents multiple billions in private capital investment, sustains thousands of US jobs in the shipping, shipbuilding and service and supply sectors nationwide, and serves legitimate and lasting national security interests with vessels and skilled, reliable civilian American merchant mariners — assets the Department of Defense relies on for military support services in distant military emergencies,” said American Maritime Officers president Paul Doell.
American Waterways Operators president Jennifer Carpenter commended president Biden for reaffirming his strong support for the Jones Act in the opening days of his administration.
"The Jones Act is the foundation for every dollar AWO member companies invest in American-built vessels and every job they provide for Americans across the country," she said.
"We look forward to working with the president and his team to strengthen the American maritime industry, which is crucial to our national, homeland and economic security,”
Kirby Corp chief executive David Grzebinski said this enables future investment in low-emissions vessels and tugs.
“We look to be a leader on America’s path to a low carbon future, whether through new vessels to support offshore wind generation, or new low-carbon technologies to move America’s cargo," he said.
Investment requirements in shipyards, marine transportation and shipping sectors will be discussed in depth during Riviera’s series of virtual conferences and webinars during 2021 - use this link to access more details and register for these events