Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) sent a letter to Admiral Thad Allen on June 22 supporting Allegiance Capital's request for a waiver of the Jones Act. For more than two weeks, Fred McCallister, Vice President of the Dallas-based investment bank, has been requesting a waiver of the Jones Act in order to bring boats from Europe to U.S. waters to assist in the Gulf oil spill clean-up.
Allegiance Capital has available 12 to 25 oil skimming vessels as well as several ships for boom deployment and the housing of volunteers and rescue workers. The Coast Guard-compliant ships are currently sitting idle.
According to Allegiance Capital Vice President Fred McCallister, bringing foreign vessels to help with the clean-up effort can provide American workers with jobs. "Our proposal alone includes opportunities for 1,200 workers, the vast majority of whom can come from the state utilizing the equipment," he said.
On June 18, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) introduced the Waiver Act. It would temporarily waive the Jones Act, which requires that all goods and people transported by water between United States ports be carried in American flagged, owned, and crewed ships. The Waiver Act would grant a short term waiver of the Jones Act for foreign vessels whose sole purpose is to work side-by-side with their American counterparts in responding to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf. Senator Hutchison's legislation has been introduced as a standalone bill and as an amendment to the tax extenders legislation.
"If we can waive the Jones Act for this disaster, with all of the appropriate cautions that are necessary, and get those foreign ships that are ready to help our country, that have offered to help our country, before this oil does further damage, we need to do it," said Senator Hutchison during a speech on the Senator floor last week. "This is something that should have been done weeks ago, so it is time for congress to step in."
Some government officials still indicate that a waiver isn't needed because foreign vessels can come as close as three miles to U.S. shores without a waiver.
"Large crewed ships have to be able to move from port to port to refuel, engage in maintenance and support the people aboard. Additionally, the skimmers will need to operate within the three-mile limit to be most effective," said McCallister. "The Jones Act waivers are necessary for these vessels and crews to assist the Gulf states in cleaning up the spill and protecting our coasts."