Greater Restrictions for Foreign Offshore Workers

Harry Gee & Associates is observing greater restrictions for foreign offshore workers seeking to temporarily board U.S. flagged vessels on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

Generally, employers must hire U.S. citizens or permanent residents to crew vessels engaging in oil & gas operations on the OCS. However, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) oversees limited exemptions to the OCS manning requirements. A commonly needed exemption is a Letter of Determination (LOD), which is issued to foreign personnel performing temporary duties that are not part of the routine functioning of the crew.

The USCG’s policy has long been to scrutinize LODs as part of its efforts to protect U.S. workers. But the agency is currently going further by declining to issue LODs to foreign personnel when the vessel is U.S. flagged. While the USCG may exercise discretion in extraordinary circumstances, this practice critically limits employers’ options to utilize the best qualified personnel and can result in expensive operational delays. For example, these restrictions can be particularly problematic for employers needing foreign technical specialists to perform repairs on foreign sourced equipment while their U.S. flagged vessel is operating on the OCS.

It should be reemphasized that this increased scrutiny only applies to LODs for U.S. flagged vessels. Adjudication of LODs for foreign flagged vessels does not appear to be impacted at this time.

Should your company encounter problems obtaining LODs or need assistance obtaining work authorization for foreign personnel on the OCS, please do not hesitate to contact our office.