Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Randy Weber (14th District of Texas)
Washington, D.C. – November 17, 2020 – U.S. Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), together with fellow Reps. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX), Vicente Gonzalez (D-TX), Michael Cloud (R-TX), Pete Olson (R-TX), Don Young (R-AK), Cedric Richmond (D-LA), Mike Johnson (R-LA), and Henry Cuellar (D-TX) introduced bipartisan legislation to facilitate the continued flow of energy imports and exports through the United States. The “Keeping America’s Energy Resources Moving Act of 2020” will prevent disruptions to the liquid-cargo lightering industry, a key link in America’s energy import and export chain, helping to secure and maintain critical feedstocks for our domestic refining and petrochemical industries and the United States’ status as the linchpin of global energy markets.
The Keeping America’s Energy Resources Moving Act will amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to account for the unique nature of sea crews engaged in the lightering of liquid cargo—those key crewmen who physically manage the transfer of liquid products from “lighter” ships that operate in shallower waters to much larger oceangoing vessels further out to sea, and vice versa. Their C1/D visas are currently limited to 29 days, a limit more generally associated with airline and cruise line crewmembers whose transit through the U.S. only requires a short turnaround time. To align with real-world industry norms, this bill authorizes entry and transit visas of up to 180 days for sea crew engaged in liquid cargo lightering for international trade that takes place offshore. Otherwise, the disconnect between the current crewmember visas and their typical employment contracts threatens to leave lightering vessels short-staffed, disrupting both domestic oil exports and critical feedstock imports for America’s refiners and petrochemical industries.
“With our five maritime ports and our proximity to the petrochemical nerve center of the United States, the 14th Congressional District of Texas is a hub for America’s refining industry and a cornerstone of this country’s energy exports. These industries power the American economy and form the bedrock of our nation’s manufacturing potential. However, they rely on the ready availability of ship-to-ship liquid cargo transfer operations to link our ports and coastal refineries to the deep-draft vessels that drive global trade in petroleum products. Through this bill’s simple statutory fix, we will protect the essential flow of energy resources and continue to propel America’s status as an energy superpower,” said Congressman Weber.
“Lightering is critical to the U.S. refining industry and to the economy of the Houston region. I am proud to support this bipartisan bill that will make a common-sense change to current law. This bill would allow U.S. State Department to issue visas for reasonable periods of time to help safeguard the well-being of lightering crew members and ensure the continued safe operation of crude oil lightering vessels transiting in our ports,” said Congresswoman Garcia.
“As Chair of the Oil and Gas Caucus, I am proud to support the Keeping America’s Energy Resources Moving Act which will provide bipartisan solutions for the lightering industry and help maintain America’s dominance as an energy superpower. I will continue to advocate for policies that maximize American energy resources and legislation that will spur economic development and create new, good paying jobs,” said Congressman Gonzalez.
“Our Texas ports are the lifeline to our oil and gas industry, providing Texas producers access to world markets. As demand for U.S. energy products grows, lightering crewmembers are essential for the transfer of oil and gas between ships. This legislation helps to ensure that our nation has the lightering crewmembers needed to strengthen our status as a top energy exporter,” said Congressman Cloud.
“Houston is the energy capital of the world and a huge part of our Texas economy relies on the oil industry,” Congressman Olson stated. “The lightering industry’s inability to obtain visas that allow them to accomplish their job harms not only their industry, but also our economic vitality. This bill is critical to the successful transition of crude oil vessels into our many ports in Texas such as Port Freeport. I thank my friend Randy Weber for his leadership on this important issue and urge quick action.”
To read the text of the Keeping America’s Energy Resources Moving Act, click here.