|HORNBECK OFFSHORE SERVICES INC /LA filed this Form 10-K on 02/28/2018|
Our high-spec OSVs are predominately U.S.-flagged vessels, which qualify them under the Jones Act to engage in domestic coastwise trade. The Jones Act restricts the ability of vessels that are foreign-built, foreign-owned, foreign-crewed or foreign-flagged from engaging in coastwise trade in the United States. The transportation services typically provided by OSVs constitute coastwise trade as defined by the Jones Act. See "Item 1A-Risk Factors" for a more detailed discussion of the Jones Act. Consequently, competition for our services in the GoM is largely restricted to other U.S. vessel owners and operators, both publicly and privately held. We believe that we operate the second largest fleet by DWT of new generation Jones Act-qualified OSVs in the United States. Internationally, our OSVs compete against other U.S. owners, as well as foreign owners and operators of OSVs. Some of our international competitors may benefit from a lower cost basis in their vessels, which are usually not constructed in U.S. shipyards, as well as from lower crewing costs and favorable tax regimes. While foreign vessel owners cannot engage in U.S. coastwise trade, some cabotage laws in other parts of the world permit temporary waivers for foreign vessels if domestic vessels are unavailable. We and other U.S. and foreign vessel owners have been able to obtain such waivers in the foreign jurisdictions in which we operate.
Many of the services provided by MPSVs do not involve the transportation of merchandise and therefore are generally not considered coastwise trade under U.S. and foreign cabotage laws. Consequently, our MPSVs and the HOSMAX MPSVs being constructed under our fifth OSV newbuild program face competition from both foreign-flagged vessels and U.S.-flagged vessels for non-coastwise trade activities. In addition, since 2009, owners and operators of Jones-Act qualified MPSVs, such as ourselves, have challenged interpretations of the Jones Act issued by Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, that we believe erroneously allow foreign MPSVs to be used in U.S. coastwise trade. In 2009 and again in 2017, CBP announced proposed modifications to or revocations of these interpretations, but subsequently withdrew both of those proposals. In 2017, trade organizations representing the owners and operators of Jones-Act qualified MPSVs, as well as U.S. shipyards that build them, sued CBP on account of the continued existence of Jones Act interpretations that are inconsistent with the statute. That suit is pending in Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, Captain Paul Radtke, et. al. v. U.S Bureau of Customs and Border Protection, et. al. Civil Action No. 17-2412. If successful, that litigation may reduce competition that our Jones-Act qualified MPSVs face from foreign MPSVs that are currently allowed by CBP to engage in coastwise trade.
Competition in the MPSV industry is significantly affected by the particular capabilities of a vessel to meet the requirements of a customer’s project as well as price. While operating in the GoM, our MPSVs are required to utilize U.S. crews while foreign-owned vessels have historically been allowed to employ non-U.S. mariners, often from low-wage nations. U.S. crews are often more expensive than foreign crews. Also, foreign MPSV owners may have more favorable tax regimes than ours. Consequently, prices for foreign-owned MPSVs in the GoM are often lower than prices we can charge. Finally, some potential MPSV customers are also owners of MPSVs that will compete with our vessels. During the recent downturn, many foreign MPSVs have departed the GoM and most MPSVs operating in the GoM are Jones-Act qualified. If market conditions improve and the CBP letter rulings continue to allow foreign vessels to engage in coastwise trade, we might face significant price competition from the owners of these foreign vessels that enjoy lower manning and tax burdens.
We continue to observe intense scrutiny by our customers on the safety and environmental management systems of vessel operators. As a consequence, we believe that deepwater customers are increasingly biased towards companies that have demonstrated a financial and operational commitment and capacity to employ such systems. We believe this trend will, over time, make it difficult for small enterprises to compete effectively in the deepwater OSV and MPSV markets. Additionally, we have observed less willingness by operators to utilize DP-1 vessels in deepwater operations in the GoM. This trend will likely result in the retirement of non-DP vessels and a migration of DP-1 vessels to non-deepwater regions, such as the shelf, and certain international regions.
Although some of our principal competitors are larger or have more extensive international operations than we do, we believe that our operating capabilities and reputation for quality and safety enable us to compete effectively with other fleets in the market areas in which we operate or intend to operate. In particular, we believe that the relatively young age and advanced features of our OSVs and MPSVs provide us with a competitive advantage. The ages of our high-spec new generation OSVs range from one year to 19 years with a weighted-average fleet age, based on DWT, of six years. In fact, approximately 90% of our active new generation OSVs have been placed in-service since January 1, 2008. The average age of the industry’s conventional U.S.-flagged OSV fleet is over 35 years and the industry's domestic new generation OSV fleet is approximately ten years. We believe that most of these older vessels are cold-stacked and many of them have been or will be permanently retired in the next few years due to physical and economic obsolescence. Worldwide competition for new generation vessels has been impacted in recent years by the increase in newbuild OSVs placed in-service to address greater customer interest in deep-well, deepwater and ultra-deepwater drilling activity and the decline in industry activity due to low oil prices. Upon completion of our fifth OSV newbuild program, we expect to own a