In late April, IADC joined seven other allied trade associations in sending an opposition letter to the Chairman and Ranking Member of the US House of Representatives Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. Other associations involved include the American Petroleum Institute, Independent Petroleum Association of America, EnerGeo Alliance, International Marine Contractors Association, Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association, Energy Workforce & Technology Council, and the US Oil & Gas Association.
In the letter, these associations express concerns regarding potential changes to the Coast Guard Authorization Act of 2023, specifically Section 336 pertaining to manning and crewing requirements for certain vessels, vehicles, and structures. Within the bill there is a provision that would add new restrictions for manning offshore vessels in US waters. The bill would require that, as a condition of working in the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), the crew members on specialized offshore international vessels are either American mariners or their nationality matches the flag of the vessel.
Although the intended goal of the proposed language in Section 336 is to foster American jobs in the US offshore energy sector, including such language would be counterproductive to this goal. If this crew manning provision were to be included in the final bill, there would be an immediate impact and virtually all foreign-flagged specialized vessels would be forced to cease offshore operations in the OCS. The joint trades letter explains,
“This is because the foreign-flagged vessels operating on the OCS are specialized and complex, and their systems require experience to operate and maintain. This experience is built by crew members over many years and is required for a vessel to be accepted via rigorous vessel assurance and vetting regimes designed to ensure the safety of personnel and protection of the environment. These highly trained and experienced crews come from all over the world, and there are neither individuals available to replace those highly trained/qualified crew members who meet the bill’s requirements because similarly capable vessels do not exist in the U.S. flagged fleet, nor are there sufficient training centers in the U.S. to build up and maintain a stable pool of trained/qualified crew. Even if crews from the U.S. (or the flag state of the vessel) were available, their experience level would not necessarily avail the requisite competencies to satisfying safety risks associated with the myriad of U.S. offshore energy activities. Consequently, this bill would effectively compromise many operations on the U.S. OCS.”
Industries – especially those providing critical energy supplies – cannot be expected to abruptly upend decades-long workforce training systems. There is already a shortage of US offshore workers, and mandating their use could worsen the shortage, causing disruptions throughout the energy supply chain.
The most direct route to helping energy workers and expanding the pool of specialized offshore crew is by aggressively accelerating safe exploration and production – not through the imposition of new restrictions. In the joint trades letter, the aforementioned associations explain the critical repercussions of including this section of the bill, and respectfully ask that the language in Section 336 be stricken from the United States Coast Guard authorization legislation.