US fisheries advocacy body the Fisheries Survival Fund (FSF) has claimed proposed changes to the Jones Act – requiring that cargo, including wind turbines, shipped between US ports be transported on American-flagged vessels – could cost ‘countless of job opportunities’ to local companies in the rapidly emerging Northeast Atlantic offshore wind sector.

Writing to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to voice it opposition to the “new interpretations” of the law – which would flex the legislation to allow offshore wind developers to shuttle components to a project site on non-US-owned vessels, FSF said such a move would “allow foreign developers to use foreign vessels for the rapid build-out of offshore wind farms [and would] jeopardise” the economic development potential to local contractors.

“These proposed modifications would place foreign-owned offshore wind energy companies at a unique advantage not afforded to the thousands of US-owned maritime industries, including commercial fisheries,” said FSF counsel David Frulla.

“FSF is not submitting this letter to oppose offshore wind energy development in its entirety. If there is a need for some form of modification to these requirements, those modifications should be narrowly tailored to meet those needs … and they should consider the impacts on our domestic maritime industries and coastal communities in so doing.”

Last month, Responsible Offshore Development Alliance, a coalition of fishing industry associations and companies set up to negotiate marine spatial planning with the US offshore wind sector, wrote to the CBP, underlining that for “nearly a century, fishermen have dutifully complied with the Jones Act”, but that the proposed modifications “would not hold offshore wind energy developers to the same standards, in violation of American principles and laws”.

But developers including Vineyard Wind, a joint operating company formed by Iberdrola’s Avangrid and Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners to develop the eponymous 800MW wind farm offs Massachusetts, and Osted, which has over 2GW under development in the US Atlantic, said it would abide by current regulations and saw a bright future for local content in and collaboration with the offshore wind sector.

“Vineyard Wind has always planned to fully comply with the Jones Act, in its current form, during construction of the project, including the use of US-flagged vessels for transporting any components from American ports,” Vineyard Wind spokesman Brendan Moss told Recharge.

“[We are] also currently engaging New England-based fishing vessels for our extensive fisheries science program, and we plan to continue this practice for additional tasks during construction. We look forward to on-going collaboration with vessels and mariners from the fishing industry.”

Lauren Burm, spokesperson for Orsted, told Recharge: “A missing piece in the growing American based offshore wind supply chain is a Jones Act compliant vessel. In order for the industry to have the most optimal set-up for installation of the turbines, a vessel will be needed.

“However, there are other solutions in the meantime like the use of US flagged feeder barges. This is what was used during the construction of Block Island.

She noted that the construction of a US-flagged vessels was “a huge opportunity for local jobs, especially for the Gulf region where they will most likely be built”, adding that Orsted is “keeping a close eye on the best path forward to solving this and working with the right supply chain companies to make this a reality.”

Comments on the CBP’s proposed changes are due by 22 November.

The fisheries lobby continues to prove a difficult deckmate for offshore wind off the US, last month rebuffing five developers' joint proposal to the country’s US Coast Guard to use a uniform turbine layout for the projects, in a bid to defuse ongoing objections from the local fishermen.

The US offshore wind has in the last four years transitioned from a solitary five-turbine pilot project operating off Rhode Island, the 30MW Block Island, into a potential major new source of clean, cost-competitive energy for the nation’s most populous coastal states, with industry forecasts suggesting capacity could grow to as much as 16GW by 2030.