About 30 percent of the petroleum-carrying Jones Act vessels move crude oil or dirty products (e.g., asphalt, residual fuel oil). In general, ship owners would not spend the time and money to convert vessels carrying crude oil or dirty products to transport clean products in the short run; however, such vessels can be cleaned to carry products in the long term if sufficient incentives exist. For example, while an 80,000-barrel barge carrying crude condensate could be cleaned and ready to carry clean products in about three days for a cost of approximately $45,000, the cost to clean a vessel carrying a heavier grade of crude or comparable residual fuel could be $600,000 or more and would take additional time.
In order for Jones Act vessels to transport additional products to the Northeast and leave other areas unaffected, sufficient capacity is required. The operating vessels mentioned above are not currently idled, and, while improved scheduling might free up some vessels, others would have to be diverted from their current routes to respond to an increased need to move product into the Northeast. For example, a number of vessels are involved in spot transactions, and could be almost immediately available. However, Northeast petroleum product demand might require a sustained need for product flow to the Northeast; not a one-time diversion. A diversion for 3 weeks has different implications on existing service than a diversion for 3 or 6 months. The size and duration of the need, and the amount of time available to schedule product moves in advance, affects the availability and cost of vessels.
To provide some perspective, our report on the Northeast closures indicated 180,000 barrels per day (bbl/d) of ultra-low-sulfur diesel fuel must be made up by increased imports, pipeline flows, and domestic waterborne movements. (We assumed increased utilizations for existing Northeast refineries before estimating the 180,000 bbl/d additional supply needs.) Although pipelines are near capacity in the short run, they can add some additional volume. This could result in the need to move 100,000 bbl/d by water. Using vessels sized at 100,000 barrels capacity, that demand would require offloading one vessel per day in the Northeast.
If the entire waterborne product came from the Gulf Coast, we would need to know the duration of the journey in order to estimate the number of vessels needed. A trip from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast is about 2,000 nautical miles. An ATB traveling at 10 nautical miles per hour (knots) could make the trip in 8 days. There is time needed to offload the cargo and then return. The round trip might be about 20 days, depending on weather and time to load and offload the vessels.