Small Vessel Jones Act Waiver Program
A relatively new program has been introduced that mitigates the strict requirements of the Jones Act. As you may know, the Jones Act requires that all commercial vessels carrying cargo or passengers for hire must be built in the United States, owned by US citizens, crewed by US crew members and operated under strict USCG regulations.
However, now under very specific terms and regulations, it is possible to operate a foreign built, foreign flagged vessel or a former US flagged vessel under certain conditions that previously required a Jones Act Vessel.
The Secretary of Transportation has been authorized to waive the domestic build requirements for foreign built or rebuilt small passenger vessels authorized to carry no more than 12 passengers.
The program allows vessel owners to request a waiver of the US build requirement of the coastwise trade laws for a vessel eligible to carry limited (12 pax) passengers in a specific area.
In order to grant such waivers, the Secretary must determine that employment of the vessel in coastwise trade will not adversely affect US vessel builders or the coastwise trade business of any person who employs vessels built in the United States.
Once this waiver is obtained, the vessel must then meet all requirements imposed by USCG for other vessels working in that trade. Since the 6 passenger and 12 passenger requirements are fairly minimal, this will allow many owners of foreign built vessels to put their boats into commercial service.
The process requires filings with the Maritime Administration, certain reports in effect on other builders and operators in the required geographic area and publication in the Federal Registry. The Secretary then evaluates any opposition to the waive and makes an administrative decision.