U.S. Customs and Border Protection or CBP issued its first Jones Act ruling relating to a floating offshore wind project on July 6, 2021, which it made publicly available on August 23, 2021. The ruling approved the mixed use of U.S. and foreign barges together with U.S. coastwise qualified tugs to transport and position a floating offshore wind turbine off the coast of Maine.
The ruling relates to the single wind turbine generator demonstration project of New England Aqua Ventus, LLC to be installed near Monhegan Island, Maine in state waters (also referred to as "territorial waters") as distinct from "federal waters" leased by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management or BOEM. The project will mount an 11-megawatt wind turbine to a floating semisubmersible concrete hull designed by the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine. The hull will be held in place by three mooring lines secured to the seabed.
The "Jones Act" restricts the "transportation" of "merchandise" between two "points in the United States" to qualified U.S.-flag vessels. Every place within U.S. territorial waters within three nautical miles of the U.S. coast is a "point in the United States" which is not to be confused with the 12 nautical mile limit the U.S. claims for certain law enforcement and other purposes.
CBP approved two alternative methods of installation. In one, the concrete hull would be manufactured on non-coastwise qualified barges and when complete transferred to a coastwise-qualified launching barge towed to the launching location by a coastwise-qualified tug(s). In the other, the hull would be manufactured on coastwise-qualified barges and when complete those barges would be towed to a launching location by coastwise-qualified tug(s) to be transferred to a foreign launch barge which would submerge at that spot and launch the hull. Because the foreign launch barges would not be engaged at any point in "transportation," CBP approved both methods as being in accord with the Jones Act.
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