Trump signs Coast Guard bill into law, includes Jones Act waiver for America’s Finest

Published on
December 6, 2018

When Dakota Creek Industries took America’s Finest out for its first sea trial on Tuesday 4 December, it looked like the 264-foot vessel was taking a victory lap.

The Anacortes, Washington-based shipbuilder held an event that day to celebrate the Jones Act waiver elected officials were able to get for the processor-trawler. Later in the day, U.S. President Donald Trump signed the Coast Guard Authorization Act, which contained the labor provision, into law. 

The process itself is not quite finished. The Coast Guard will get 30 days to review information to make sure neither Dakota Creek nor Fishermen’s Finest - the company that commissioned construction of the USD 75 million (EUR 65.9 million) vessel - committed a deliberate violation of the Jones Act in building the ship.

Coast Guard officials did not return a request for comment.

The act mandates that ships involved in maritime commerce between two U.S. ports contain no more than 1.5 percent foreign steel. Roughly 10 percent of the steel used in the construction of America’s Finest was bent in the Netherlands.

Still, Dakota Creek representatives and U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Washington) saw plenty of reasons to celebrate Tuesday.

“The employees at Dakota Creek support an industry that creates good jobs, strengthens national defense, fosters innovation and contributes to the maritime economy in Washington state and Alaska,” Larsen said, according to a press statement. “I am proud to stand with the women and men of Dakota Creek to finally secure a Jones Act solution.” 

Dakota Creek and Fishermen’s Finest pursued a waiver after realizing the error, but the Coast Guard initially denied the request. The House of Representatives had approved a waiver for the vessel in bills, but the waiver was removed in the Senate. It led Fishermen’s Finest to consider selling the boat to a foreign buyer for a loss. 

However, last month U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) was able to secure the waiver language in the Coast Guard bill both chambers approved last month

Mike Nelson, a vice president for Dakota Creek, thanked Larsen, Cantwell as well as U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) and U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) for their work in getting the waiver passed. The agreement reached includes language that caps the amount of fish America’s Finest can process for six years. Alaska officials had raised concerns the processor-trawler would impact business at Dutch Harbor processors.

“This has been a very difficult and stressful two years for Dakota Creek, and the signing of this bill is a huge relief for all our employees,” he said. “We now can get back to work serving our valued customers with the support of our many suppliers throughout the region.”

Photo courtesy of Dakota Creek Industries

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