We've gotten a few questions from readers about the Jones Act of 1920, which according to some lawmakers,conservative commentators and news reports is a maritime law that has blocked foreign vessels from helping in the Gulf oil spill cleanup.
That's not true. At least, not so far.
According to Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen, 15 foreign vessels are already working on cleanup, and so far waivers haven't been needed. Here's what he told reporters on Friday:
If the vessels are operating outside state waters, which is three miles and beyond, they don't require a waiver. All that we require is an Affirmation of Reciprocity, so if there ever was a spill in those countries and we want to send skimming equipment, that we would be allowed to do that, as well, and that hasn't become an issue yet, either.
To the extent that there is a waiver required and they come to us, we're more than happy to support it in making that request to CBP [Customs and Border Protection]. But to date, since they're operating outside three miles, no Jones Act waiver has been required.
Steps have already been taken to expedite the waiver process should they actually be needed.
It should also be pointed out that many offers of foreign assistance are actually offers to sell supplies, and consideration of domestic inventory goes into the decision to accept them. Here's the Associated Press:
"These offers are not typically offers of aid," said Lt. Erik Halvorson, a Coast Guard spokesman. "Normally, they are offers to sell resources to BP or the U.S. government."
Only Mexico offered the U.S. anything for free. It said it would give the U.S. government some containment boom. BP separately bought 13,780 feet of boom and two skimmers from Mexico in early May, according to the State Department.
Factcheck.org has more on the subject.