The U.S. Coast Guard has signed off on a Jones Act waiver for America’s Finest, a $75 million vessel commissioned by Fishermen’s Finest, according to a press release issued by U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) earlier this month.

That means the boat built by Dakota Creek Industries is free to fish in U.S. waters and deliver products to American ports.

“The Coast Guard worked hard to create a thorough report absolving Dakota Creek and giving the green light to the America’s Finest vessel,” said Larsen in the statement. “The employees at Dakota Creek support a job-creating industry that strengthens national defense and fosters innovation and contributes to the maritime economy in Washington state and Alaska. I am proud to be a part of giving the hard working employees at Dakota Creek a stronger future.”

The review ends a nearly two-year ordeal regarding the ship due to the amount of foreign processed steel used in its construction. The Jones Act limits ships traveling between two U.S. ports to have no more than 1.5 percent foreign steel. About 10 percent of America’s Finest steel was bent in the Netherlands.

America’s Finest seemed destined for an international sale at a substantial loss after repeated attempts to get a waiver failed. However, Washington state’s Congressional delegation worked to get waiver language into a Coast Guard reauthorization bill that both chambers passed in November 2018 in an attempt to save hundreds of jobs at Dakota Creek, a leading shipbuilder in the state.

President Trump signed that bill into law last month.

Dakota Creek Vice President Mike Nelson told the Skagit Valley Herald the news hadn’t really sunk in.

“I think we’re done as far as we can tell,” he said. “It’s like there’s always been one thing around the corner, but I don’t think there is anymore.”

One of the conditions for the waiver was for the Coast Guard to inspect records and verify neither Dakota Creek nor Fishermen’s Finest deliberately circumvented Jones Act regulations in building the 264-foot trawler-processor vessel.

The waiver also puts some limitations on the number of fish the ship can process for the next six years. That was done after Alaska officials raised concerns that the ship could impact processor’s at the state’s Dutch Harbor port, the nation’s largest fishing port.

Dennis Moran, president of Fishermen’s Finest, told the Herald that the restrictions will require to discard dead fish, something he detests. Still, he’s pleased the waiver was granted for a vessel that will “be the best ship in the country” and that Dakota Creek shipyard will stay in business.

“We will deal with the restrictions in a variety of ways,” he said. “That will just have to play itself out in the next year.”

This story was originally published by Seafood Source and is republished here with permission.

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Steve Bittenbender works as a freelance journalist based in Louisville, Kentucky. Besides working for as a contributing editor, Steve also works as an editor for Government Security News and as the Kentucky correspondent for the Reuters News Service.

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