Harvey Gulf International Marine, a marine transportation company specializing in deep water operations, took delivery of the first of two subsea multi-purpose supply vessels compliant with the Jones Act. The Act states that vessels transporting cargo between United States ports must be built in the U.S., registered in the U.S., owned by a U.S. citizen, and is manned by a crew of U.S. citizens. These types of vessels provide a variety of services for offshore operations including supply services, deep water rig mooring operations, surveying activities, offshore and subsea repairs and construction. The new ship is named the M/V Harvey Sub-sea and is expected to compete for these offshore jobs in the Gulf of Mexico with the added advantage of being part of the Jones Act fleet.
Jones Act compliance notwithstanding, the type of work that can to be performed the ship has often been done by foreign-flagged vessels. United States Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) has been granting permission via rulings which allow oil companies to use foreign offshore supply vessels for the Gulf region. They were made on a case-by-case basis for decades, but in 2009 USCBP declared they would be reviewing the rulings. After the 2009 announcement, marine companies including Harvey Gulf invested billions in building ships to fill the need. The use of these ships would also create more U.S.-based jobs for the region and U.S. crewmen.
The delivery of the ship came at a critical time. While USCBP had announced their intention to review the letter rulings, no action was taken for years. Then in January 2017, they seemed poised to revoke those prior rulings to keep foreign-flagged vessels from competing on the Gulf of Mexico for subsea construction work. Reversing the letter rulings would have created a greater demand for domestically built and owned vessels. However, days after the arrival of the vessel, USCBP announced it was stepping back, taking more time for regulatory review and to reconsider withdrawing these rulings. Some U.S. maritime industry associations had supported the revocation arguing that it would create jobs for American mariners. The oil and gas industry, as well as the International Marine Contractors Association, argued against the changes claiming they could slow down offshore energy developments.