OMSA cites Vineyard Wind, arguing for new offshore legislation

October 27, 2022

The Dutch-flagged anchor handling tug Norne worked on the Vineyard Wind project off southern New England. Kooiman Marine group photo.

A Dutch tug working on the Wind from the vineyard project off southern New England is an example of why Congress should pass legislation imposing crewing requirements for offshore wind works in the United States, the Offshore Maritime Services Association said Thursday.

The 111’x 36’x 13′ 580 dwt tug flying the Dutch flag norn was used to reposition anchors on the Vineyard Wind rental area, according to OMSA, which is pushing for passage of the American Offshore Worker Fairness Act.

“Offshore wind developers have just received a multi-billion dollar tax credit from US taxpayers and Vineyard Wind is turning around and giving those dollars to Dutch shipowners and foreign sailors. US offshore energy should mean US jobs and opportunity, unfortunately once again we see offshore developers knowingly circumventing US law to save money (supported by taxpayers) at the expense of jobs Americans,” OMSA President Aaron Smith said in a prepared statement.

“Vineyard Wind was caught lying after telling Congress that they would use American ships and only use foreign ships in extremely rare circumstances,” Smith said. “There are about 2,000 American tugs with American crews available today, but instead Vineyard Wind has hired the Dutch-flagged vessel. norn for a small day-to-day role while American sailors sit idly by. It’s just one example of offshore developers taking advantage of an unfair loophole allowing foreign-flagged vessels to hire crews from low-wage, often adversarial, nations, undermining U.S. jobs and energy.

Through a spokesperson, Vineyard Wind took issue with OMSA’s characterization of the Norns work.

“These claims are simply untrue. The ship mentioned is part of an integrated unit that works in tandem with the cable company for a decade and is designed specifically for the highly technical nature of cable installation,” according to the spokesperson. “In addition, there is an American-flagged tug, the Nicole Fossactively working in the service of the project with these vessels.

In March 2021, Vineyard Wind announced that DEME Offshore United States would team up with Maritime Foss to construct the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind 1 offshore energy project, using the feeder concept of a foreign-flagged wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) supplied on-site by Jones Act-compliant US vessels.

Foss, a longtime American marine services contractor with a union workforce, supplies the collection vessels and crews. This has proven to be a strong political selling point for offshore wind in northeastern states, where organized labor has a lot of influence with governors and pro-wind power legislators. The Nicole Foss will be based at the New Bedford Foss Marine Terminal, which is scheduled to open at the Massachusetts South Shore Port in March 2023.

The U.S. Offshore Workers’ Equity Act “would require foreign vessels to use U.S. sailors or citizens of the ship’s home country when operating in offshore energy activities in U.S. waters,” according to OMSA. “It would change the current practice of foreign ships using crew members from low-wage countries at daily rates that no American would or should accept. This unfair practice gives foreign ships a competitive advantage over American ships and taking away jobs from American sailors.

Legislation still making its way through Congress is hotly contested in the offshore wind industry. Renewable energy advocates warn that this will hamper U.S. offshore wind development still in its early stages, when some foreign-flagged vessels will be needed for specialized tasks. U.S.-based offshore service providers and task forces have backed the measure as closing what they call a loophole in U.S. maritime laws and regulations.

Among its proposed measures, the legislation would require foreign seafarers working in U.S. offshore energy markets to obtain transportation worker identification cards (TWICs), just like U.S. seafarers. Visas issued to work on foreign-flagged vessels would be limited based on the specific number of crew required for the tasks, and foreign vessels operating in U.S. offshore energy markets would be subject to annual Coast Guard inspections.

Built in 2011, the norn is a twin screw anchor handling tug, powered by two Mitsubishi S12U-MPTK engines rated at 2,700 hp at 1,016 rpm, according to manufacturers Kooiman Marine Group. On Thursday afternoon, the tugboat was reported to be moored near Providence, RI, according to AIS data released by Marine traffic.

About Michael S. Montanez

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