Adm. Allen Reiterates Jones Act Did Not Hinder BP Oil Cleanup

March 2011

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Retired U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, the national incident commander who led the BP cleanup effort, recently told the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee the Jones Act did not prevent foreign vessels from participating in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico.


“There was a misperception that the Jones Act impeded the use of foreign vessels for Deepwater Horizon response operations,” said Adm. Allen on Feb. 11. “In reality, the Jones Act had no impact on response operations. As national incident commander, I provided specific guidance to ensure accelerated process of requests for Jones Act waivers.”


Adm. Allen said that there were no Jones Act waiver denials over the course of the recovery effort. “Any decision not to use a foreign flag vessel during the response was based upon an operational decision, not any limitations imposed by the Jones Act.”


His testimony reconfirmed what he said during efforts to recover the oil that was leaking into the Gulf. On July 6, 2010, Allen declared that “at no time” had the Jones Act inhibited the cleanup effort.


His remarks before the committee were given just one month after a report from the non-partisan National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling confirmed the Jones Act did not prevent foreign vessels from assisting with the cleanup.


Additionally, during the hearing, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) asked Adm. Allen if “the waiver provisions of the Jones Act provide sufficient flexibility during emergencies.”


Allen’s response was concise: “Yes they do.”


The Jones Act is a longstanding U.S. maritime law that protects national and economic security. It requires that goods moving between domestic ports be carried on vessels that are crewed, flagged, built and owned American. However, the Jones Act does not apply to skimming outside of three miles from shore, including near the well 50 miles from coastline, where the vast majority of skimming occurred after the Deepwater Horizon disaster.


According to the Maritime Cabotage Task Force (MCTF), the domestic maritime industry “annually generates 500,000 jobs, contributes $100 billion in total economic output, adds $46 billion to the value of U.S. economic output, provides $29 billion in wages, and contributes $11 billion in taxes.”

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