Finally an opinion piece supporting US Mariners in our Offshore Wind Industry

Background: The US offshore wind industry is absolutely hostile to employing US mariners, especially in the planning/building phase (where a significant number of the jobs will be).

In 2022 there was a provision in the USCG bill that (among other things) addressed Jones Act loopholes. It would have required mariners serving offshore wind projects to be either American, OR be the nationality of the country where the vessel was flagged. An interesting way to write the law by the way - continuing to allow foreign mariners, but still bothering the companies because they don’t want to source mariners from FOC states.

The provision was eventually removed from the bill before it was passed, but lets look at the responses: The wind industry responded fast:

The American Clean Power Association (Offshore Wind trade group) made this poster in which they even give figures for how many jobs will be foreign:

Of course those numbers seem fishy. How do they define mariner? Required by the COI? There are plenty of other jobs on construction vessels that may not be accounted for in their math.

But it doesn’t stop there.

The CEO, Heather Zichal, said “We are extremely concerned about the maritime crewing provision [in the act] as it will cripple the development of the American offshore wind industry" She’s literally on record claiming that hiring Americans would put the industry under. An industry which bills itself as an opportunity for Americans to get good paying jobs. (see report above).

All those windfarms built in California on land were build with AMERICANS. Why does that go out the window when the farm is built over water - water which falls within US territory? It’s not like these farms will be in international waters or anything, these farms are so close to land you will be able to see them from the beach!

Anyway, the response from US Labor interests? Nothing. Nothing from MARAD, which literally exists to advocate for the US Merchant Marine. Nothing from the US Maritime Unions - whose purpose is to defend US mariners. Nothing from the OMSA, the US offshore trade industry (the one that launched the “Jones Act Enforcer” vessel to report JA violations).

Just now in 2023 I am seeing an opinion piece supporting US Mariners from Workboat. Raising people’s awareness of big wind’s desire to “ship” jobs overseas is a start. The articles the author links to are also worth a read.

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And when the ChiComs decide to halt the export of the necessary rare earth elements to make wind power possible where will we be? Wind power and especially off shore wind is a fools errand. It’s bad enough when a hurricane takes down power lines. What happens when it takes out the source of the power ?

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I hate to play Devils Advocate, but how would you feel being a project manger whose built windfarms in the past, and you move to a project in a country where there are no offshore wind farms, and you’re forced by local regulation to only hire mariners with no experience doing that sort of work. We do this to our own all the time for good reason, Take a young mate who has a PIC from their time as a cadet at MSC, and got their chief mate’s license sailing on container ships. Sure, they have a license to be a chief mate on a tanker, but would you hire them? I say the same thing about Jones Act LNG, I don’t think we could pull together enough qualified mariners to crew an LNG tanker anymore.

What’s more, is there any money in these wind contracts for us anyway? How would they be able to attract the DP talent we have in the gulf right now making $1,000/day with research ship day rates? AMO can hardly hold onto their DP officers in the cable fleet, SIU has had 120+ jobs on the board for three years at this point, No one can find a 3rd engineer to save their lives, I could understand how Ms. Zichal would be concerned requiring American crews would cripple the project. Maybe US Labor interests know there will be little interest from Americans.

But also while I’m not opposed to wind, this is really dumb, because there is so much open land in America where these projects would be infinitely easier to build, why are we putting them in the ocean when the entirety of West Texas is available.


These foreign offshore wind hucksters, the lobbyists they hired, and the Congressmen they bought, ought to be tarred and feathered and put on the next boat back to Europe.


“No business which depends for existence on paying less than living wages to its workers has any right to continue in this country” - Franklin D. Roosevelt


When the Magnussen Act forced foreign fishermen outside the 300 mile limit in the 1970s Americans did not have the vessels or technical expertise for the factory trawling needed to exploit these waters. So rather than kick the foreigners out all at once there was a phase in period for the provisions of the act. The purpose was to allow foreign boats and expertise to overlap American assumption of the trade. To this day there are still foreign technical experts and capital in American fishing but the trade is American as are the profits. A clear template for fostering the offshore wind trade.


So Amazon, McDonald’s etc. have to move their business elsewhere then?
Worse for farmers, they can’t just take their soil with them and move to where they can find cheap labour legally.


Not really a great comparison, but if hypothetical future foreign vessels working Northeast wind farms were forced to pay NY/MA minimum wage, benefits, and other state labor protections, there really wouldn’t be any incentive to hire foreign. Besides why should NYers and New Englanders allow these projects to move forward if they don’t provide Americans living in those constituencies job opportunities.

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OK what about the comparison that freighterman1 brought to the discussion? No foreign expertise, no American factory trawler fleet that now employs thousands.

Or, (if I haven’t said it before I’ll repeat it now) the example from the Offshore Oil & Gas Industry. when American rigs, boat and barges where “king” in the offshore industry worldwide?

Did some protest?
Yes, but most put up with loudmouthed, tough talking roughnecks and spittle cups, until they learnt how to do it better and safer, with equipment that was better suited for local conditions.

I’m sure somebody here on the forum worked “foreign” then and didn’t find it at all wrong for them to work in somebody else’s waters?

23 years working in the GoM and you are telling me that it can be done different?

Here is what may kill the mariner jobs in the OWF industry in the US:

I’m all for foreign technical expertise working in a trade temporarily. Even better if you have Americans working those jobs, filling the billets on the COI, with the foreign expert as a consultant. I have no problem with that. Turning any of those jobs into permanent foreign jobs, pretending to want to fill with US workers and pretending to want to upskill and educate workers, but not actually planning on using them is all unacceptable. These plots are mere miles offshore, why shouldn’t local hiring be required.

No, they should be forced to pay a living wage.

In fact they are in places where there are strong unions and strict labour laws,

If a company wanted to build a Nuclear Power Station on US soil then they couldn’t fly construction workers in from the Philippines and Eastern Europe and then pay them low wages that Americans wouldn’t work for, then fly them home when the power station was built.

The same logic should apply to offshore wind.

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Should the same restrictions apply for Americans who wants to live and work abroad?:

When Americans live and work abroad they generally don’t undercut local labor markets. They work for the same or more than the people from the places where they are living.

The point I was making that is if a company wanted to build a power station on land they are not allowed fly in cheaper labor from abroad to build it. I don’t see why the same logic doesn’t apply to power generation offshore.

Yes I did get your point about cheap labour, both ashore and afloat. but the complains here is not ONLY about cheap crews. It appears to be about foreigners and foreign vessels engaged in any offshore activity in the US waters, both Oil & Gas and OWF.

Not many such vessels are manned by cheap crews (aka “3rd world villagers”) top to bottom.
The majority probably have European officers and Asian crews. There are also some with ALL European crews on pay and conditions equal or above those of US mariners on US-flag ships.

Besides marine crews such vessels also carry technicians of various categories, some who may be foreign, or local hires supplied by the charterers/operators, as you well know.

My point was that it is a two-way street. If a US-flagged CSV should get a short assignment in foreign waters they should be allowed to do so without being forced to change to foreign crews and v.v.

PS> Yes I know that most US owners would change crews, as they are allowed to by US rules. (excl. Master) Not ALL flag states allow that, though, whether by Law or by strong union rules.

As for emigration and foreign workers in general, there are also different rules in different countries, not to mention different public opinions.
One thing is becoming VERY clea;, both the US and European countries are treating migrants and asylum seekers differently, depending on origin.
They all compete for highly qualified and skilled migrant, though.

That Americans living and working abroad generally don’t undercut locals, or compete for low paying jobs, is true. They do drive up prices for housing and services and some fill jobs that MAY have been done by qualified locals.

Most people here in Maine, for example, know people that work at sea but the vast majority of Americans neither know nor care what goes on offshore.


US maritime unions are very strong. This is why We still have the Jones act. My Union makes it possible to earn nearly USD 400 a day to make desserts salads and do the dishes for a crew of 24.

US maritime unions are anything but strong.

Supply and demand, STCW, covid, and relatively little slack (spare capacity) in the labor market have raised Mariner wages.

Unions haven’t done shit.

If the unions were any good, there would be pickets and picket boats around these foreign offshore wind vessels, line handlers would refuse to take their lines, assist boats would refuse to assist, pilots would refuse to board, longshoremen would refuse to load or unload, trucks would refuse to cross the picket lines at the gates. Instead, the worthless unions do nothing.

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