Trump says NO to Puerto Rico Jones Act waiver
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, September 26, 2017
The Washington Post published on September 25, 2017, an Associated Press article, “The Latest: US not waiving foreign ship restrictions for PR,” in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria which which made landfall as a Category 4 storm early Wednesday morning September 20th.
UPDATE Sept 28: White House waives Jones Act for Puerto Rico -- For Just 10 Days
The AP reports, “The Trump administration says it is not planning to waive federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo to Puerto Rico and other areas affected by Hurricane Maria, as it did following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.”
They also noted the September 22nd statement of Congresswoman Nydia M Velázquez (D-NY-07) calling for a yearlong Puerto Rico Jones Act waiver.
Explaining, the AP article states, “A spokesman for the Department of Homeland Security says officials believe there is sufficient capacity of U.S.-flagged vessels to move goods to Puerto Rico. Spokesman David Lapan said most of the humanitarian shipments to Puerto Rico will be through barges, which make up a significant portion of the U.S.-flagged cargo fleet.”
This reference to “barges” appears to be directly related to press release posted on September 25, 2017, to the Crowley Maritime Corporation website, “Crowley Says On-Island Distribution Key to Getting Relief Supplies to Puerto Rico Residents,” announcing they are adding five (5) additional barges to their existing common carrier service between Jacksonville, Florida, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Crowley in their press release wrote:
Working with a variety of governmental agencies, Crowley has already taken bookings for more than 2,700 container loads of relief cargo to be delivered to Puerto Rico, St. Thomas and St. Croix. Many of these loads have been delivered, are in transport, or will be readied for transport in the coming days.
Crowley has also secured additional vessels to handle government and commercial cargo. Five new container deck barges with a combined capacity of more than 3,800 20-foot equivalent containers (TEUs) have been placed into service along with accompanying tugboats to tow them. They, along with Crowley’s existing vessel fleet, will operate continuously without a set schedule to get as much cargo to the island as quickly as possible and as many empty containers out of the island so that they can be returned with full loads.
Crowley, which has about 300 Puerto Rico employees, has served the Puerto Rico market since 1954, longer than any other Jones Act carrier in the trade.
Crowley, as an important leader of the domestic U.S. maritime industry – also known as the Jones Act industry, can only be considered as taking action not only to alleviate shortages and suffering on the island territory, but also to defend their interests and forestall the administration from declaring a Jones Act waiver to cover Hurricane Maria and Puerto Rico.
There has been criticism of President Trump regarding whether or not his administration’s actions in respect of the enormous destruction Maria wrought on Puerto Rico will prove to be a sufficient response, especially as many of the residents are “brown” and not “white” like the president.
Radio talk show host Hugh Hewett spoke with Washington Post reporter and host of PBS Washington Week, Robert Costa, on Tuesday morning, September 26th, about the situation in Puerto Rico. They discussed the possibility that if Trump’s efforts are perceived to be insufficient, it could be turned against him in the same way Category 5 Hurricane Katrina was in 2005 to President George W Bush.
With such widespread destruction across the Commonwealth and the attendant political consequences, the issue of a Jones Act wavier for Puerto Rico is probably not yet a settled issue.
WSJ: Second-Class Puerto Rico--Trump declines to waive the Jones Act for hurricane relief.