AMP: Domestic maritime industry dedicated to Puerto Rico

The following is the text of a news release from the American Maritime Partnership (AMP):

(WASHINGTON) — Jones Act carriers have provided regular, dedicated service to Puerto Rico for decades. The Jones Act fleet servicing Puerto Rico includes modern, state-of-the-art vessels, such as the world’s first LNG-powered containership, as part of domestic operators’ recent investments in the trade totaling nearly $1 billion. Puerto Rico also benefits from reduced backhaul rates from Puerto Rico to the mainland and specialized 53-foot containers which provide extra capacity over standard 40-foot containers. As part of these investments, Jones Act carriers support thousands of jobs in Puerto Rico. The domestic maritime industry is committed to meeting the needs of the island while also supporting the long-term economic requirements of the people and communities of Puerto Rico. 

The domestic maritime industry is a key part of Puerto Rico’s relief efforts

The hardworking men and women of the American maritime industry – both on the mainland and in Puerto Rico – are dedicated to delivering essential cargoes to areas impacted by the storm and continuing to support the long-term recovery of Puerto Rico.

The domestic American maritime industry has 25 Jones Act vessels – state-of-the-art containerships, roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) barges, load-on/load-off (lo-lo) barge and offshore supply vessels – delivering cargoes to the island efficiently and cost effectively. These 25 vessels include nine vessels that have entered the regular Puerto Rico trade since Hurricane Maria hit.

As of Nov. 16, these vessels had delivered more than 36,000 containers with millions of pounds of commercial and relief cargo to Puerto Rico.

Domestic carriers continue to increase their capacity in order to better serve Puerto Rico. Alongside the additional nine vessels placed into the regular Puerto Rico trade, carriers have acquired additional 53-foot containers (which are routinely used in the Puerto Rico trade and increase load capacity by more than 40 percent as compared to standard containers) and additional chassis to support the surplus of standard deliveries.

Jones Act carriers are prepared to handle this surplus. For example, one Jones Act carrier delivered in early November its biggest weekly cargo volumes since Hurricane Maria made landfall with 3,000 containers in one week – a 43 percent increase in the carrier’s normal weekly vessel capacity. Another carrier has increased their capacity by 67 percent.

In order to handle increased volume, domestic carriers have also added mainland ports in the Northeast as ports of origin for cargoes destined for Puerto Rico. Some Jones Act carriers have increased vessels speeds to reduce transit times, and at least one carrier now offers sailings virtually every day of the week from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico.

In addition to the 25 vessels in regular service, other Jones Act vessels are providing occasional service to the island, with more Jones Act vessels available if additional capacity is needed. This has allowed carriers to bring more goods to the island as rebuilding needs increase.

Jones Act carriers deliver much-needed emergency relief cargoes

Jones Act carriers continue to meet the special needs that exist in Puerto Rico by delivering critical relief cargoes to the island. Below are just a few examples of how the industry is serving Puerto Rico:

• Carriers are prioritizing the distribution of FEMA cargoes to ensure that relief is getting to the island as quickly as possible, despite inland distribution issues.
• One Jones Act carrier alone has dispatched 1.3 million meals and 2.77 million liters of water to the island, providing relief to over 60 municipalities.
• In one week, domestic operators delivered nearly 7,000 TEUs of water to Puerto Rico, including 1,500 FEMA loads of water, providing nearly 2 million liters per day to the island’s residents.
• A domestic carrier deployed 375 trucks on the island to aid in distribution activities, including supporting FEMA with regional distribution capabilities.

Carriers have delivered thousands of units of specialized equipment, including rolling stock, generators, poles (electrical and communications) and other cargoes necessary to rebuild the island. For example, a tug/barge unit from Louisiana delivered self-powered cellular communication towers that are critically needed to re-establish communication on the island, as well as vehicles, housing, bulk fuel, and food. Another carrier is transporting the initial batch of what will eventually total 32,000 utility poles, which are crucial to fixing the island’s destroyed power grid.

The domestic maritime industry is also offering unique services during the hurricane season, such as securing extra warehousing space for cargoes; providing staging/storage space for relief goods; acquiring trucking services; performing specialized transfer requests at the ports; providing meals to workers; and hosting weekly events to support different communities around the island.

The domestic maritime industry is partnering with organizations to deliver relief

Domestic maritime carriers are working closely with a number of partners, including the Department of Homeland Security, American Red Cross, FEMA, the Puerto Rican government, the government’s Elderly Support Team and commercial customers to support their needs as they deliver goods to the island.

In addition to delivering vital goods, the American maritime industry is working with organizations throughout the island to distribute food, fuel, water, and other daily necessities including hygiene and cleaning items, meal kits, clothing, batteries, and ice.

One domestic carrier has prepared over 5,000 meal kits that feed a family of four and is partnering with organizations interested in delivering meals to Puerto Ricans. 

What people are saying about the domestic maritime response in Puerto Rico

“The Jones Act has not added difficulties to the recovery in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The goods getting to the port were not the problem. It was the distribution from the port into the country where the need was at that was the difficulty,” said Rep. John Rutherford, R-Fla.  “The U.S. maritime industry are first responders in times of emergency like Hurricane Irma and Maria and Jacksonville is ground zero for getting shipments of goods to Puerto Rico quickly reliably and economically. … They have proven themselves committed to meeting Puerto Rico's immediate needs while also supporting the long term restoration of the island's economy.”

“Finally, I hope once and for all to put the idea to rest the idea that somehow the Jones Act is inhibiting the recovery of Puerto Rico,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore. “The problem has been the logistics of getting those out of the port.”

“The men and women of the American maritime industry stand committed to the communities in Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria, where many of our own employees and their families reside and are working around the clock to respond to the communities in need. As our industry has done in past natural disasters, we are actively working with the administration, FEMA, MarAd, and relief organizations to deploy quickly and deliver essential goods like food, fuel, first aid supplies, and building materials,” said Thomas A. Allegretti, chairman of the American Maritime Partnership.

“I am very grateful for the extraordinary work of our teams in San Juan, Jacksonville and in other parts of the country,” said Tom Crowley, Crowley Maritime chairman and CEO. “Their tireless commitment and focus on getting results is truly impressive and deserves our respect and appreciation.”

“The U.S. maritime industry was one of the first industries to respond to the needs of the people of Puerto Rico. The morning after Hurricane Maria, my colleagues and I were back in action preparing for the first cargo arrivals,” said Eduardo Pagan, vice president and general manager of Caribbean services for TOTE Maritime. “If the Jones Act were hurting Puerto Rico, I would be opposed to it. In fact, Jones Act providers are central to helping Puerto Rico rebuild, and they will continue to reliably deliver cargo long after TV cameras have departed.”

According to Mitch Luciano, CEO of Trailer Bridge, “As soon as it was clear that Hurricane Maria was headed to Puerto Rico, we began filling containers with goods for our team and their families there. It was important to us, to not only support our family there, but to also ensure we sustained full operations for our customers and the relief effort of Puerto Rico.”

By Professional Mariner Staff