Puerto Rico gets Jones Act waiver in wake of Fiona

(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — The U.S. government announced Wednesday it would temporarily waive a federal law and allow foreign diesel deliveries to Puerto Rico as it faces a dwindling supply of fuel nearly two weeks after Hurricane Fiona pummeled the U.S. territory, NPR reported.

The announcement comes a day after Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, the archbishop of San Juan and others requested that President Biden temporarily suspend the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, best known as the Jones act, which requires that all goods transported to the island be aboard a ship built in the U.S., owned and crewed by U.S. citizens and flying the U.S. flag.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said he temporarily waived the law “in response to urgent and immediate needs of the Puerto Rican people” so they could have “sufficient diesel to run generators needed for electricity and the functioning critical facilities as they recover from Hurricane Fiona.”

Pierluisi had warned diesel supplies on the island were running low in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona and noted that a British Petroleum ship with 300,000 barrels of diesel has been floating off Puerto Rico’s southern coast since Sunday, awaiting entry.

The waiver was opposed by the American Maritime Partnership, which sent a letter to Mayorkas detailing the group’s concerns.

“We are disappointed that DHS would ignore the requirements of Section 501, side with foreign operators over Americans operators and mariners in an unprecedented way, and sanction the worst possible commercial behavior. We urge you to never approve a waiver like this again,” an excerpt from the letter stated.

By Rich Miller