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Plans for Jones Act-compliant wind farm service ships announced

This spring, Aeolus Energy Group, an American wind tower services company, announced that it plans to enter the U.S. offshore wind market with a fleet of American-made ships. Now the company, which maintains onshore wind turbines, says it will be partnering with Ulstein, a Norwegian shipbuilder, on the first Jones Act-compliant vessel to provide offshore wind services.

Under the Jones Act, which is part of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, any vessel that carries goods between U.S. ports (all 50 states and Puerto Rico) must meet the following requirements:

  • It must be built (or rebuilt) and registered in the U.S.
  • At least three-fourths of the crew must be U.S. citizens.
  • It must be owned by an American company that is controlled predominantly (75 percent) by U.S. citizens.

This first vessel that's been announced will have an Ulstein design that's already in use. The Norwegian company has built ships based on this design in its own country. The new ship, however, will be built in the U.S. The shipyard where it will be built (which will need to be Jones Act-qualified) has not yet been determined.

The ship will have a distinctive hull that includes a rounded stern and Ulstein's "X-Bow" design to help minimize slamming. The ships also have gangways that are designed to allow technicians to get between the ship and the wind towers on which they're working.

Aeolus has said that it hopes to eventually have an entire fleet of wind farm service vessels that are all Jones Act-compliant. This would include vessels that would serve these projects from their installation through their eventual decommissioning. This would include hotel ships and crew transfer vessels.

The company's chief executive officer (CEO) says, "The design and ultimate construction of these vessels will result in significant job creation and is a demonstration of confidence in the American shipbuilding industry."

The Jones Act covers more than where vessels are built and registered and the citizenship of their crews. It also helps some injured workers and surviving family members file claims for compensation for medical bills, funeral costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. If you believe you meet the requirements to file a Jones Act claim, an experienced maritime law attorney can provide valuable guidance.

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