Key Maritime Provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act

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The William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021 (H.R. 6395) passed over President Trump’s veto to become law on January 1, 2021. The bill, which authorizes Department of Defense appropriations for the 2021 fiscal year, also included key provisions that affect the maritime industry.

One of those provisions is H.R.7515, The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act (MTSERA). MTSERA establishes a program at the Maritime Administration which can provide 100% grants to public and certain private entities for operational expenses impacted by declared disasters, including COVID-19. A thorough description of the bill can be found in our Longshore Insider article from July 27, 2020.

The bill was introduced by Peter DeFazio (D-OR) and Patrick Maloney (D-NY).

“I am thankful to my House colleagues for stepping up today for the maritime industry,” said DeFazio. “The Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act would for the first time authorize the Maritime Administration to provide financial assistance to stabilize and ensure the reliable functioning of the U.S. Maritime Transportation System in the event of a national emergency or disaster, including, the current COVID-19 public health emergency. The hard-working men and women of the maritime industry have kept critical goods moving during the global pandemic, and for that our thanks are not enough. This bill gives them the same protections and relief given to other industries during COVID-19.”

The NDAA also includes a provision to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA) to include offshore wind energy production. The legislation confirms that the Jones Act will apply to offshore wind energy production on the OCS. This is welcomed news to the U.S. shipbuilding industry as the Jones Act requires that vessels used in commerce between two points in the United States must take place aboard a vessel that is U.S.-built, U.S.-owned, U.S.-flagged, and U.S.-crewed. (For AEU’s perspective on how offshore wind farms will impact the landscape of maritime workers’ compensation, check out this webcast.

The amendment was championed by U.S. Representative John Garamendi (D-CA).

“Offshore wind development will play a critical role in our nation’s transition to a clean energy economy, (and) Demand for offshore wind development in U.S. waters is strong, and Congress must act to ensure this burgeoning industry abides by federal laws and regulations, including the Jones Act, so we have the strongest possible labor, antitrust, and environmental protections. My common-sense amendment to the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act simply clarifies that all existing safeguards that govern offshore oil and natural gas extraction also apply to wind energy. This will enable American workers to support offshore wind development and provide a critical economic stimulus for our nation, with construction on the first major offshore wind project in federal waters set to begin as soon as next year,” said Garamendi.

Finally, the HEROES Act (H.R. 6800), which passed in the House in June but later stalled in the Senate, was supplanted by the most recent COVID-19 stimulus bill. As discussed in a previous blog, this act would have expanded coverage of the Longshore Act to employees diagnosed with or quarantined because of COVID-19 without any requirement for the exposure to be employment related. The bill was largely opposed by maritime industry associations.

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Related Topics

Coronavirus, COVID-19, Legal, Offshore Wind, Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (OCSLA)