US maritime law not a barrier to the development of offshore wind, writes Blue Alpha Capital founder John D McCown
Editor’s note: Mr McCown wrote the following to the editor of The New York Times in response to their article, ’Offshore Wind Farms Show What Biden’s Climate Plan Is Up Against’ published 7 June.
Your 7 June ’Offshore Wind Farms Show What Biden’s Climate Plan Is Up Against’ article referred to the Jones Act four times and was long on calling it the bogeyman but short on the underlying facts. Using a Jones Act turbine installation vessel will marginally increase the cost of an offshore wind turbine but when you know all the relevant numbers the delta is hardly material. The final installation of each offshore wind turbine involves just a few days’ work by these complex vessels. Your readers would have been better served by your highlighting the day rates for such vessels and calculating the total cost over a range of days. When you do that, you’ll realise you’re talking about a low single digit percent of the US$40M per turbine cost. My own analysis as part of my deep dive into this space over the last two years points to the incremental project cost from using a Jones Act vessel versus a foreign flag vessel being around 1.4%. Hardly the barrier suggested by your article. Note that the majority of the costs of these complex vessels are appendages to the hull. As such, the multiple efficient Gulf Coast shipyards capable of building these vessels can access the same suppliers foreign builders use and that portion of the building cost would be nearly identical.
It’s understandable that windfarm developers want to minimise their costs. But they need to comply with our laws and regulations, one of which is the longstanding Jones Act. Its importance goes well beyond others because it and the industry and broad supply chain it supports are linked directly with national security. They need to deal with that reality and quit acting like their lack of planning should translate into a change in law that simply won’t occur. The Biden Administration and the large majority of members of Congress in both parties vigorously support the Jones Act.
Unfortunately, shiploads of misleading and inaccurate information on the Jones Act has been peddled the past couple years by certain think tanks carrying water for entities seeking to progress their own business interests. That some of the funding for such ‘research’ comes from foreign entities makes these efforts even more pernicious. Ignore their balderdash, do the math and follow the hard facts.
About the author
Mr McCown has spent four decades in the maritime sector since graduating with an MBA from Harvard Business School. That includes 15 years as chief executive of a Jones Act container shipping company he co-founded and five years investing in maritime companies worldwide as head of transportation investments at a US$20Bn hedge fund. Mr McCown holds two shipping process patents, one related to cargo handling and another related to vessel propulsion. His mentor was Malcom McLean, the inventor of container shipping who he worked with on a daily basis for some 20 years. Mr McCown’s recently published book Giants Of The Sea is a broad sweep of the modern cargo shipping industry and its development and it was just referred to by a pre-eminent reviewer of maritime books as an “excellent, important and very valuable book”.
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