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Tankers: Jones Act waiver spurs flurry of vessel bookings on USGC/USAC-Florida run


The seven-day Jones Act waiver announced Friday by the Department of Homeland Security in recognition of the severity of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma prompted a flurry of fixing activity for non-US flagged Medium Range tankers loading gasoline on the US Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast to sail to Florida.

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The Jones Act requires vessels transporting goods between US ports to be US-flagged, US-built and majority US-owned.

"There have not been any [Jones Act] ships to work with prior to Irma; ships have been snapped up [after Harvey]," a Jones Act tanker broker said.

Port Everglades on Florida's southeast coast and Port Tampa Bay on the west side reopened Tuesday, allowing fuel cargoes to replenish supply drained by last week's massive evacuation for Hurricane Irma.

The waiver permits non-US flagged vessels to deliver US products within points in the US from September 8-15 as a precautionary measure to ensure that there will be enough fuel to support life-saving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations, according to DHS acting Secretary Elaine Duke.

A total of 11-12 Jones Act-waivered vessels have been placed on subjects on the USGC/USAC-Florida run since Friday, but shipbrokers believed a minimum of six had already failed.

"Because of the hurricane damage on the USGC, people can't get their hands on the product," a shipbroker said, alluding to reduced refining capacity and limited drafts at USGC ports.

Jones Act-waivered spot trades were negotiated at a $200,000-$300,000 lump sum on the USGC/USAC-Florida route, with freight on the USGC-Tampa trip for discharge on Florida's west coast heard at a $200,000-$215,000 lump sum.

Freight for voyages to Port Everglades and points north of Port Everglades on the east coast of Florida were valued at premiums of $85,000 and $125,000 over a Tampa discharge, respectively, according to sources.

MR Jones Act freight was estimated at a $570,000 lump sum on the USGC-Tampa run and at $680,000-$700,000 for USGC loaders discharging at Port Everglades, or $300,000-$400,000 higher than Jones Act-waivered freight negotiations.

The five non-US flagged vessels remaining on subjects and loading on the USAC include the STI Battery for Shell and the Sunny Bay for Vitol. USGC loaders include the Ocean Breeze for ExxonMobil, the Iver Exact for Vitol, and the Nave Jupiter for P66.

"Directionally this was positive for the international [tanker] market," a shipping analyst said, as it took prompt positions out of the market.

--Barbara Troner,
--Meghan Gordon,
--Edited by Jason Lindquist,