Senator pursuing new route to Jones Act waiver for America's Finest

Published on
March 9, 2018

The push to get a Jones Act waiver for America’s Finest will take a new tack in the U.S. Senate.

Earlier this week, the Senate Homeland Security Committee approved its own version of the Department of Homeland Security reauthorization bill. The Senate’s version did not include an amendment approved by the House of Representatives to grant a waiver for the USD 75 million (EUR 61 million) ship built by Dakota Creek at its Anacortes, Washington facility for Fishermen’s Finest.

However, that’s not to say support does not exist for the waiver in the Senate, a spokesperson for Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) told SeafoodSource.

“Senator Cantwell is supportive of a waiver and is working with her colleagues on the Commerce Committee and in leadership to get it done,” said Bryan Watt, who added that the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee handles issues related to the Jones Act.

Dakota Creek constructed America’s Finest, which can both harvest and process fish, with some steel from Holland. That violated the Jones Act, which regulates U.S. maritime commerce. The Act stipulates that ships involved in domestic commerce, such as catching fish in U.S. waters and bringing them to an American port, can be made with no more than 1.5 percent by weight of foreign-made steel.

A website created by waiver proponents said the ship was built with a “small amount” of Dutch cold-formed steel, but it did not indicate the percentage. However, the site indicates America’s Finest includes more than 5.3 million pounds of U.S. steel. 

The Coast Guard turned down the company’s direct request for a waiver last year.

America’s Finest supporters aren’t the only ones taking their case to Washington. Frank Kelty, mayor of Unalaska, Alaska, sent a letter to Alaska’s congressional delegation asking them to place protections for his city’s shore-based processing plants in any waiver that’s given to America’s Finest. 

The delegation includes Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), who serves on the Commerce Committee with Cantwell.

Already, the lack of a waiver has forced Dakota Creek to lay off some of its shipbuilding force. It also could force the sale of the ship – at a loss – to an international buyer. 

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