US denies Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico

(WASHINGTON) — The Trump administration on Tuesday denied a request to temporarily waive the Jones Act to help get fuel and supplies to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, Reuters reported. The administration said the move would do nothing to address the island’s main impediment to shipping, which is damaged ports.

The Department of Homeland Security, which recently waived the Jones Act after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma hit the U.S. mainland, did not agree an exemption would help this time. Gregory Moore, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, said in a prepared statement that an assessment by the agency showed there was “sufficient capacity” of U.S.-flagged vessels to move commodities to Puerto Rico in the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria.

“The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” Moore said. 

The government’s rationale for a waiver after Harvey and Irma hit Texas, Louisiana and Florida was to ease the movement of fuel to places along the East Coast and make up for temporary outages of high-capacity pipelines. 

“The situation in Puerto Rico is much different,” Moore said in the statement, adding that most of the humanitarian effort would be carried out with barges, which make up a large portion of the U.S.-flagged cargo fleet.

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By Professional Mariner Staff