U.S. Offshore Wind Developers Search for ‘Jones Act’ Solution

As American offshore wind industry readies to start building large projects, developers are searching for a way around the so called “Jones Act” from 1920.

According to the Jones Act, any ship that sails between two U.S. points must fly a U.S. flag and has to be registered in the country. Once an offshore wind turbine foundation is installed ‒ it counts as a point. This means that wind turbine installation vessels sailing from European countries would not be able to dock in the U.S., and the country doesn’t have any vessels built specially for the offshore wind industry.

“Basically, anything attached to the seabed, either permanently or temporarily, is a point,” South Coast Today quotes Washington D.C. maritime and admiralty lawyer Charlie Papavizas as saying. “As soon as someone drives a pile into the seabed, it counts as a new one.”

However, there are some ways to resolve this problem, and to construct wind turbines off the U.S. coast without violating the law.

South Terminal, which will be built in New Bedford, is designed to bypass the requirement of specialized heavy-lift vessels with a crane that can pick a component off a boat at one end of the bulkhead, and move with it to the other end. This way, the turbines can be assembled on land and then placed on a barge, which will take them to their final destination.

Another possible solution is for a specialized foreign vessel to work offshore, but without bringing any cargo whatsoever from the port to the point where the turbine is being built.

Nevertheless, a long-term development of the American offshore wind industry will demand U.S.-built specialized offshore wind vessels, South Coast Today cites DeepWater Wind’s Jeffrey Grybowski.

A U.S. company based in New Jersey is working on this. Namely, Weeks Marine has invested in the construction of a jack-up barge called R.D. MacDonald. When completed, this will be the first U.S. vessel specifically built for offshore wind construction. The company expects the barge to be used on the Cape Wind project.

OW, December 30, 2013

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