National Incident Command: Jones Act no obstacle to Gulf cleanup.

The U.S. government’s National Incident Command (NIC) in charge of the oil cleanup effort in the Gulf of Mexico has circulated a fact sheet stating that U.S.-flag vessel rules for operating in coastal waters have not prevented it from accepting assistance and equipment from other countries.

“Currently 15 foreign-flagged vessels are involved in the largest response to an oil spill in U.S. history,” NIC said.  “No Jones Act waivers have been granted because none of the vessels have required such a waiver to conduct their operations as part of the response in the Gulf of Mexico.” 

While the agency claims to see no need to waive the Jones Act, the NIC is making preparations “to process necessary waivers as quickly as possible to allow vital spill response activities being undertaken by foreign-flagged vessels to continue without delay should that be necessary.” 

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (“the Jones Act”) is a statute sponsored by U.S. Senator Wesley Jones (WA) that restricts the carriage of goods or passengers between U.S. ports to U.S. built and flagged ships.  In addition, at least 75 percent of crewmembers must be U.S. citizens.

The Jones Act only applies within three miles of shore.  As a result, foreign oil skimmers along with American skimmers, are already at work beyond three miles.  The Deepwater Horizon spill is occurring 50 miles from shore, and the vast majority of oil is beyond three miles.

“In no case has the Federal On Scene Coordinator (FOSC) or Unified Area Command (UAC) declined to request assistance or accept offers of assistance of foreign vessels that meet an operational need because the Jones Act was implicated,” NIC said.

The NIC fact sheet can be accessed at here.



The Soy Transportation Coalition is comprised of eight state soybean boards, the American Soybean Association, and the United Soybean Board. The National Grain and Feed Association and the National Oilseed Processors Association serve as ex-officio members of the organization.