It is a safe bet that few people reading this note have been entirely unimpacted by the coronavirus pandemic. It is truly an event of worldwide scale that has, virtually overnight, fundamentally changed the way we work and live. The virus’ global effects will be felt long after a vaccine or cure is found, and in ways we can hardly imagine. One interesting anecdote has to do with energy consumption. As the United States rapidly shut down its economy in April to try to stem the spread of the virus, our national energy consumption dropped dramatically. Because of its relative cost, coal power plants were the first to be idled, with the result that by mid-May, America’s renewable energy sources—primarily wind, solar, and hydroelectric—had produced more electricity than by coal on 90 separate days in 2020. By comparison, in 2019, that occurred on only 38 days over the entire year. This trend will only continue as the incremental cost of solar and wind generation drops further in the coming years.
Meanwhile, the United States is on the cusp of an explosion of offshore wind projects that have been more than a decade in the making—particularly on the east coast, where the first offshore wind farm began operation in 2016 and many more are in various advanced stages of development. Blank Rome has been busy for several years now in advising clients—both domestic and international—on all aspects of these developing projects, from regulatory issues such as Jones Act and work-visa requirements, to environmental and permitting issues, chartering, contracting, corporate assistance, and beyond.
With all of this in mind, we decided to focus this special issue of Mainbrace primarily on the emerging U.S. offshore wind industry, providing critical analysis into U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Jones Act developments; a detailed overview of state and federal legislation and project development updates; comparative analysis of SUPPLYTIME and WINDTIME charterparty contracts; and insights into the potential post-COVID-19 implications on the offshore wind market. And while not offshore wind-related, we also provide a discussion on the dramatic Hanjin bankruptcy and the role to be played by the Federal Maritime Commission and Department of Commerce in case of future such bankruptcies.
We hope that you enjoy this Special Offshore Wind edition of Mainbrace and that you stay safe and healthy.
THOMAS H. BELKNAP JR.