By Barry Parker.
Offshore wind will be a key component of future U.S. successes in the marine businesses. This was the message conveyed at the “Maritime Prosperity Forum,” presented by the Coast Guard Foundation and the Maritime Association of the Port of New York and New Jersey (MAPONY).
Held at the upscale Cipriani Wall Street venue, the event focused on marine transportation around the Northeast and, in particular, the New York area, and featured an hour-long panel discussion with experts from diverse parts of the business. Unlike many of the tedious dialogues at industry conferences, this panel’s lively tempo (with on-point answers to questions) was maintained throughout—due to a highly informed moderator with lengthy experience in spearheading TV news events.
The discussion covered a wide range of topics including the business side, with panelists from the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, which is developing an offshore hub, Rose Cay Maritime, a leading owner of U.S. articulated tug/barges, and Great Lakes Dredge & Dock (NYSE: GLDD), which provides building equipment to support offshore construction. Representing the regulatory end, there was the U.S. Coast Guard and law firm Blank Rome, with its deep expertise in all things Jones Act related, and those somewhere in the middle, there was NYSERDA, an agency supporting efficient energy use in New York, and project developer Ørsted, which is involved in multiple leases in Northeast waters.
Moderator Jeanne Meserve, who has won a few Emmys for her reporting on CNN and ABC News, set the stage for the offshore wind discussion, explaining that in the U.S. “we don’t have much to guide us” and reminding that “we are creating a new industry from scratch” and that decisions made in the next few years “will reverberate for decades to come.” It’s not easy.
Capt Zeita Merchant, U.S. Coast Guard Captain of the Port for Sector New York, stressed the vast amounts of collaboration required for multiple “stakeholders,” saying: “The Coast Guard has a commitment to getting this right, being part of the conversation, and being proactive.” She added that the USCG “is investing in every way that we can… to get the resources” and “having conversations to bring collaborators together.”
The Jones Act, and the role U.S. vessels and mariners, versus those from European countries, was a topic that punctuated the discussion. Responding to a question re building vessels in the U.S., Ørsted’s Northeast Marine Affairs Manager, John Mansolillo, said: “There’s enough capacity in Europe to use up all the vessels that they have there.“ He commented that “what we do in the United States will eventually have to come from America, or the Americas,” and affirmed that Ørsted is “committed to following the rules that are in place, but vessels take time, and take money.”
William Hanson, who runs Government Relations and Business Development at GLDD, said, “We think that the U.S. maritime industry has done a great job responding to projects that are out there.”
In highlighting the confidence in the offshore wind sector, Mr. Hanson explained that GLDD undertook construction of a new vessel, a $197 million “inclined fall-pipe” subsea rock installer under construction at the Philly Shipyard, even “without a contract for employing the vessel.”
He noted that: “As most folks in the maritime industry will tell you, that’s big boy time!”