America’s Cup Act passes US Congress

Thu Nov 24 2011, 12:01 PM

US Congress passes special waiver for America's Cup support vessels after organisers warned event could be in jeopardy

The America’s Cup Act, which had been stalled in Congress and threatened to stymie the America’s Cup, has passed both houses of Congress. It is expected to be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

The America’s Cup Act, which was promoted as a jobs creation bill, allows 60 foreign-flagged vessels that will serve as America’s Cup support boats to be waived under the Jones Act. The Jones Act of 1920 is designed to protect the US shipbuilding industry by mandating that all maritime commerce between US ports must be done in ships built in the US.

The America's Cup Act had originally looked like it would be passed quickly by both houses until two Pennsylvania Congressmen attached five foreign-flagged LNG tankers to the bill.

The American Maritime Partnership, a lobbying group of US commercial shipbuilders, officially objected to the inclusion of the LNG vessels. “They could have an adverse competitive impact on existing operators in the coastwise trade,” said the group in a statement.

An unnamed US Senator stalled the bill, forcing America’s Cup organizers to substitute other support vessels for its America’s Cup World Series event in San Diego, California. The Cup organizers warned that if the bill did not pass, the whole series could be in jeopardy.

The bill’s sponsors agreed to remove two of the LNG tankers from the bill, facilitating its passage.

“This straightforward, common sense legislation facilitates international participation in a globally recognized sporting event,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein in a statement. “Nationwide, the America’s Cup events are expected to increase domestic economic activity by nearly US$2bn and create about 12,000 jobs.”

The economic impact in San Francisco, which will host the 34th America’s Cup is expected to be about US$1.4bn, creating 8,800 jobs in food and beverage, hospitality, transportation, and the construction trades.

“This is an incredible feat and demonstration of the breadth of support we have in Washington,” said San Francisco America’s Cup Organizing Committee Chairman Mark Buell in the statement. “We are grateful for the bipartisan leadership and commitment in Congress for the 34th America’s Cup.”