Cassidy, Graves seek parity for offshore American vessel workers

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) last week sponsored bicameral, bipartisan legislation that aims to give equal support to American-flagged vessels working on offshore energy activities in homeland waters with their foreign-flagged counterparts.

“U.S. and Louisiana mariners and maritime companies lose when foreign vessels, which do not pay U.S. taxes, business taxes or payroll taxes, take advantage of loopholes to hire foreign workers for half the cost,” Rep. Cassidy said. “This bill levels the playing field to give the American worker a fair shot.”

“Other countries are taking advantage of using foreign vessels and workers operating in U.S. waters,” Rep. Graves said. “This is not a level playing field, not putting America first, and we need to close this loophole. This bill takes us a step closer to bringing parity to the market.”

Sen. Cassidy on Feb. 17 introduced the American Offshore Worker Fairness Act, S. 3705, while Rep. Graves on Feb. 15 sponsored his chamber’s version, H.R. 6728, with original cosponsor U.S. Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA).

“Louisiana has a great opportunity with this bipartisan legislation to bring more jobs to the Gulf region and make sure there are good job opportunities in Louisiana,” said Rep. Graves.  

If enacted, the bill would improve the oversight of foreign-flagged vessels and their mariners by requiring them to be either U.S. citizens or citizens of the nation where the vessel is flagged, according to the bill’s text.

Additionally, the measure would limit the number of visas that could be issued to the crew of each foreign vessel to 2.5 times the number of crew members on that vessel, and would require foreign vessels to prove their ownership on an annual basis, the bill says.

The proposed bill also would require the U.S. Coast Guard to annually inspect these vessels to ensure compliance with the new law and that the crew members on these vessels secure Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC) cards from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Shipbuilders Council of America and the Offshore Marine Service Association endorsed the measure.