AFL-CIO Metal Trades Dept. Seeks Ruling for Jones Act

Friday, May 19, 2006
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.

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