"We are still receiving reports of foreign-flagged vessels being turned away or their offers of assistance hanging in limbo. That should not be the case," LeMieux asked. "Admiral Thad Allen is reporting that vessels do not need a waiver to participate in cleanup efforts, yet skimmers are apparently going unused. There is a breakdown of communication and it is critically important the situation get fixed and we see an armada of skimmers at work."
In the letter to the president, the senators specifically question if there have been any response-appropriate vessels offered by foreign nations that have been turned down by the Administration. They also ask the Administration to commit to an expedited waiver system for all potentially useful foreign vessels. Finally, they encourage the Administration to be proactive in soliciting aid and assets from foreign nations where appropriate.
BACKGROUND: On June 14, Sen. LeMieux with Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Chumuckla, formally requested the president waive the Jones act so as to allow international skimmers to assist in the cleanup of the Gulf. The Jones Act provides a federal framework for maritime labor relations and contains provisions requiring ships working in U.S. waters to be U.S. built, owned and operated. Jones Act waivers are administrative decisions that allow the use of vessels and shipping situations that wouldn't normally be legal under the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. One recent example of a waiver of the act occurred in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. A copy of the letter is available on Senator LeMieux's website at http://lemieux.senate.gov/public/?p=NewsReleases&ContentRecord_id=746c707a-8665-4a91-9826-ac7879ab882a