Aside from the current low water emergency, there are many other challenges facing inland waterways.
In an interview with AJOT, American Waterways Operators (AWO) President Jennifer Carpenter outlined some of the hurdles, including the much-debated application of Jones Act waivers.
Carpenter praised the actions by Congress and the Biden administration to thwart attempts to undermine U.S. build and U.S. manning requirements as provided under the Jones Act to be reduced, saying, “I want to thank Congress and the Biden Administration who have taken a very firm stance against unnecessary waivers of the Jones Act. So, Congress in the last National Defense Authorization Act that passed in 2021 put guardrails around new Jones Act waivers which limit them in duration, and require more transparency which makes even more explicit the need for a clear National Defense justification. Meanwhile, the Biden Administration has held the line against Jones Act waivers despite considerable pressure. There have been opportunistic efforts to request waivers due to the global instability with the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the rise of energy prices: My responses are: Don’t do it…It’s not legal and it’s not needed.”
Offshore Wind Industry
The Jones Act stands to be a bigger issue in the near future with the advent of offshore wind projects. As Carpenter points out there is potential for new jobs and vessel operation business for the growing U.S. offshore wind industry: “I am the Vice President of the American Maritime Partnership which is the Jones Act Coalition. I also chair AMP’s offshore wind committee and I am really passionate about this because there is so much opportunity for American maritime in offshore wind. This is also a great opportunity for energy independence and greenhouse gas emission reductions … We are building up an industry from the ground up. It did not exist before. Sometimes we hear: ‘Why can’t we do things the way we did in Europe?’ and the answer is because this isn’t Europe. The question should be how we can meet policy objectives in compliance with U.S. law. Developers are engaged in partnerships with domestic maritime, so you’ve got DEME Offshore partnering with Foss Maritime on the Vineyard Wind project (offshore Massachusetts). Maersk and Kirby have to work together to build out Empire Wind (offshore New York State). Kirby is the largest U.S. tank barge, operator. They didn’t have a wind division. Now they do. That tells you something about the opportunity for American maritime.”
Carpenter says she sees new opportunities developing as a result of Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) project. Dominion says that when fully constructed in 2026, the CVOW project will “deliver up to 8.8 million megawatts per year of clean, renewable energy to the grid, powering up to 660,000 Virginia homes. Providing this power with wind energy will avoid as much as 5 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually—the equivalent of planting more than 80 million trees.”
Carpenter notes: “In my state of Virginia, you have Dominion Energy ordering a U.S.…
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