Cassidy seeks feedback on draft of American Offshore Worker Fairness Act

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) seeks feedback on a discussion draft bill he released earlier this week regarding offshore manning and crewing.

To be titled the American Offshore Worker Fairness Act, the draft bill specifically aims to create a level playing field between U.S.-flagged vessels and foreign-flagged vessels working in offshore energy activities in American waters, according to a summary provided by Sen. Cassidy’s staff.

The draft bill also would improve the oversight of foreign-flagged vessels and the mariners who work on them, the summary says.

“We need to ensure U.S. and Louisiana mariners and maritime companies can compete on a level playing field in the Gulf of Mexico for all offshore energy activities,” Sen. Cassidy said on Aug. 30. “We cannot continue to lose to foreign vessels who take advantage of loopholes, avoid paying taxes, and hire foreign workers. 

“We need to find a balance that maximizes opportunities for U.S. companies and workers and avoids project delays,” he said.

Current law requires that all vessels, rigs, platforms, or other offshore structures be manned by U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. The law also includes an exemption from that provision, which allows vessels that are more than 50 percent foreign-owned to operate in U.S. waters with foreign crews, according to the draft bill’s summary. 

The exemption, however, has created a loophole that allows foreign vessels from some of the world’s richest countries to utilize mariners not from their home or flag nation but from low-wage nations, the summary says, putting U.S. companies at a disadvantage.

Sen. Cassidy’s draft bill includes an updated exemption that would mandate that each individual who is manning or crewing the vessel, rig, platform, or other vehicle or structure is a U.S. citizen, an alien lawfully admitted to the U.S. for permanent residence, or a citizen of the nation under the laws of which the vessel, rig, platform, or other vehicle or structure is documented, states the text of the draft.

Sen. Cassidy is accepting feedback on the draft measure through Sept. 15.