Crowley seeks cash

A leading tug, tanker and containership operator has rejoined the race to secure loan guarantees backed by the US Maritime Administration (MarAd).

Chip Jaenichen

Acting Maritime Administrator Jaenichen has been with the U.S. Department of Transportation, Maritime Administration since July 2012 when he was appointed Deputy Maritime Administrator by President Obama.

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According to an updated list of pending Title XI applications Crowley Maritime is seeking $362.7m to help fund a pair of con-ros that are under construction at VT Halter Marine.

The organisation, which is based in Washington, DC, says the owner has asked for a loan with a term of 25 years and notes the project carries a total price tag of roughly $414.6m.

In addition to Crowley the current list of applicants includes Pasha Hawaii Transport, JR Gray Barge and TOTE, which is widely believed to be the frontrunner in the dash for cash.

An observer who is active in the Jones Act market admits he was surprised when he first heard about Crowley’s request since it pulled an application for loan guarantees to help fund a pair of products tankers on order at Aker Philadelphia Shipyard just a few months back.

At the time critics of Title XI argued that the move was a testament to growing frustration with the programme but admit today’s  development suggests demand for government aid still exists even amongst blue-chip owners with access to sources of low-cost capital.

The programme was a hot topic at the Shipping 2014 conference in Stamford earlier this year when US Maritime Administrator Paul “Chip” Jaenichen told delegates that MarAd planned to factor “eco” into the decision-making process when reviewing submissions going forward.

During a private meeting with a few dozen attendees he also pointed out that initiatives aimed at reducing waiting periods to 12 months or less by streamlining the overall review process are already underway but it’s unclear how much progress has been made since then.

A few weeks prior Blank Rome, a prominent US law firm, issued an assessment of the Title XI programme in which its shipping team raised questions about how environmental considerations would impact the length of time it takes the agency to examine applications.

“If MarAd really wants to help the US maritime industry, it should streamline the application process and reduce the time and costs of evaluating applications, not add to them,” they said in reference to the renewed interest in projects that utilise green technologies.

 As TradeWinds has reported Crowley’s con-ros will boast carrying capacities of approximately 2,400-teu and nearly 400 vehicles a piece upon delivery in 2017. Both units will be equipped with technologies designed to drastically reduce fuel consumption and emissions.

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