OMSA alleges another Jones Act violation in the offshore wind sector

Offshore wind is becoming a long-running bone of contention in the US, with some US interests keen to bring the sector completely under the purview of the Jones Act.

The Offshore Marine Service Association (OMSA) has made another accusation of Jones Act violations. It said that the research vessel Geoquip Saentis (IMO 9282132), a foreign-flagged ship with non-US crew, “illegally” transported cargo off Virginia in support of an offshore wind project.

OMSA launched a “Jones Act Enforcer Programme” earlier this year, intending to document and report alleged contraveners of the Jones Act, which serves to ensure that certain maritime activities in the US are undertaken only by US flagged-and-built ships, with US crew on board. The latest report states that the Geoquip Saentis transported merchandise from points in US waters to US ports. The Jones Act demands that seaborne cargo shipped between two US points to be carried by US-built, crewed, and owned vessels.

Although the Jones Act was originallyintroduced to guarantee US maritime self-sufficiency in times of national crisis, it has in past decades become more of a protectionism vs free trade issue. OMSA President Aaron Smith said that “US wind power should mean US jobs”.

Smith claimed that the offshore wind projects were creating jobs for Estonians and Romanians, “while capable American mariners sit on the shore”.

OMSA claimed that weak oversight from the US government enabled the Geoquip Saentis to both violate the Jones Act and to avoid complying with employment, safety, and environmental protection laws and regulations. The report alleges that the US Coast Guard failed to follow existing law or their own regulations by allowing the vessel to employ non-US citizens in US waters.

The report said that the vessel was “apparently” never inspected or obtained the classifications required to conduct drilling or coring activities, and that when the vessel first arrived in US waters it did not secure the Clean Water Act-required permits and was therefore prohibited from entering two US ports.

The report alleges that, in securing the permit required by the Clean Water Act, the vessel operator falsely reported the number of crew members and the amount of time the vessel was to spend in US waters.

The vessel was alleged to have failed on several occasions to broadcast its position via AIS, thus breaking US law.

In August, OMSA reported its first detected violation, alleging that the Vanuatu-flagged derrick barge Epic Hedron was transporting merchandise between US points off the coast of Louisiana (IMN, August 27th 2021).

OMSA has further alleged that the Geoquip Saentis was continuing to work in US offshore wind fields. The vessel left New Bedford, Massachusetts on Saturday November 13th and seemed to be heading to an offshore wind project South of Nantucket, although OMSA said that the vessel’s AIS did not seem to be registering, so an exact location was not available.

2005-built, Bahamas-flagged, 3,404 gt Geoquip Saentis is owned by Geoquip Marine Asset AG of St Gallen, Switzerland, and managed by Geoquip Marine Operations AG of St Gallen, Switzerland. It is entered with Shipowners Club on behalf of Geoquip Marine Operations AG (GMoperationsAG).