Prosperity persists

The Jones Act product tanker market remained strong in the first-half of 2014 and many industry insiders are optimistic that the segment will continue to prosper in the coming years.

Inside the Jones Act

The Act, which protects domestic shippers from foreign competitors, requires shipping between US ports to be performed by vessels that are US flagged, built, crewed and operated.


On Wednesday American Shipping Company (ASC) issued an equally encouraging forecast and identified the signs that suggest the trend isn’t going to end anytime soon.

In the Oslo-quoted owner’s second-quarter earnings report it noted tonnage involved in the coastwise carriage of US crude is benefiting from the same underlying fundamentals that have helped buoy freight rates for the past few years.

“Capacity at the two US shipyards currently able to build product tankers is nearly fully utilised through 2017,” it said in reference to 14 tanker orders placed at Aker Philadelphia Shipyard and General Dynamics NASSCO.

The operator also pointed out that the Jones Act tanker segment is still cashing in on the shale oil revolution in the US and increased output from a network of oil refineries that are becoming increasingly reliant on low-cost domestic crude.

“The output from refineries on the Gulf Coast continues to increase, as does shale oil production,” ASC continued, adding: “These positive trends are expected to continue [in the foreseeable future].”

The operator also noted that there are no shortage of opportunities to refinance debt, which serves as further evidence that a growing number of lenders are targeting companies with exposure to certain areas of the US shipping industry.

“The company has continued discussions with several parties interested in refinancing its debt structure, with the objective of reducing our capital cost, providing flexibility for pursuing growth opportunities, and increasing our dividend capacity,” it told investors.

While ASC’s market forecasts are notoriously optimistic the company’s earnings reports and quarterly outlook can be extremely valuable to researchers who track Jones Act tankers since the space is small, relatively illiquid and lacks data points that are used to chart trends.