Rep. John Garamendi, D-CA, withdrew a proposed amendment to the Coast Guard Reauthorization Bill that would have required all export of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to be carried on U.S.-built, flagged- and crewed-ships after several other members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure questioned whether it would make the Jones Act vulnerable to attack to free trade advocates under the General Agreement of Transportation and Trade.
Instead an amendment to the bill requires a study, to be completed in six months, that would detail the number of jobs that would be created by a requirement to build LNG carriers in the U.S. and crew them with Americans.
“Natural gas is a strategic national asset that has helped spur a revival of American manufacturing. When done thoughtfully, limited exports provide an excellent opportunity for creating American jobs in building and manning LNG ships,” said Garamendi.
“We have allowed this critical national security industry to rapidly decline because we are timid, because we are afraid of free traders," he said.
Garamendi told the committee that Fred Harris, the president of General Dynamic's NASSCO subsidiary, said his company's shipyards in San Diego and Bath Maine could build a substantial number of gas carriers, as could other U.S. shipyards.
"This is a real opportunity to make it in America," said Garamendi, adding that in the past decade while the U.S. has built none, South Korea has built 212 LNG carriers; Japan, 102; and China, 13.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-CA, said while he was sympathetic to Garamendi's desire to revitalize shipyards and the Merchant Marine, he was concerned about creating a new requirement to require privately financed exports on U.S. vessels and felt the proposal could make the Jones Act vulnerable to attack under trade agreements such as the GATT.
Garamendi also withdrew an amendment that would authorize a Cruise Ship Passenger Bill of Rights in the face of opposition from other committee members. Hunter opposed this amendment, which he said would subject carriers to a $25,000 fine, per incident, if they did not include on passenger tickets information about mechanical breakdowns and gastric illnesses. He noted other types of passenger transport companies — airlines, Amtrak, and Greyhound buses — are not subject to such requirements. He also said the bill would authorize a new open-ended tax on cruise tickets.
Garamendi was defeated in an attempt to strike two sections of the bill that he said would weaken longstanding seafarer protections.
One section would restrict foreign seafarers from filing claims seeking “maintenance and cure” for damages or expenses related to personal injury, illness, or even death — "in violation of centuries old maritime law principle and an international convention ratified by the U.S. in 1939," he said in a statement. Another would cap the amount that cruise ships would have to pay in penalty wages when they demonstrably withhold seafarers’ wages.