The AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department
(MTD), representing workers at Aker Shipyard in Philadelphia, has urged the
U.S. Coast Guard to investigate the yard's "partnership" with South Korea's
Hyundai Mipo Dockyard to determine whether ships Aker is building,
specifically a series of ten Veteran Class MT-46 Product Tankers, comply
with the requirements of the Jones Act. The Department has also held
discussions with key members of Congress to start inquiries on the Hill.
The Jones Act and other maritime laws require that shippers use vessels
built in the United States and owned by United States citizens to haul
commodities between U.S. ports. MTD maintains that Aker's relationship with
Hyundai violates the terms of the Jones Act.
Aker is importing prefabricated steel bulbous bows and stern tubes
directly from Hyundai. In addition, Aker is importing pre-assembled
equipment modules and other components from HMD and other South Korean
companies for the construction of double hull tankers that Aker intends to
be used in the Jones Act market.
"Congress passed the Jones Act to protect the United States
shipbuilding industry so that, in times of emergency, our country has the
facilities and the employees to produce vessels. The MTD believes that
Aker's practices undermine the Jones Act by allowing important components
of these vessels to be prefabricated or preassembled overseas rather than
in the United States generally
, or at the Philadelphia Shipyard in
particular," declared MTD President Ron Ault. "We have it on good authority
that the ship Aker is now building comes right out of boxes brought in from
South Korea," he added.
Ault charged that Aker is also violating the terms of the partnership
agreement with the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania that
brought them into the Philadelphia Shipyard in the first place. "This is
little more than a 'paint by numbers' prefabricated South Korean 'Kit'
ship," Ault said. "We are talking about over 300 shipping containers of
pre-assembled ship modules and components from South Korea
and Germany. It
isn't like we can't do this work. We built the first four ships for Matson
Lines, proving we can build American Jones Act ships in Philadelphia. Now,
they are bringing in everything already pre-assembled right down to things
as simple as ladders and piping."
Aker's forerunner, Kvaerner Shipbuilding, was granted subsidies worth
over $500 million to bring commercial shipbuilding back to the Philadelphia
region. The pact includes a $1 per-year lease on the old Philadelphia
shipyard grounds. Under the terms of that deal, the company agreed to
rehire shipyard workers displaced with the shutdown of the Navy Shipyard
and to set up apprenticeship programs to train local workers.
Leaders of the Philadelphia Metal Trades Council say that Kvaerner has
brought in foreign shipyard workers to "train" U.S. workers in how to bolt
and weld together the pre-fabricated parts. However these foreign workers
usually are given a section of the ship to complete at the Philadelphia
yard without any U.S. workers being assigned to that project.