McCain calls for Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico

Crowley Invader Class tug Sentry tows triple deck barge La Reina loaded with relief cargoes for Puerto Rico Crowley Invader Class tug Sentry tows triple deck barge La Reina loaded with relief cargoes for Puerto Rico

SEPTEMBER 26, 2017 — Problems with shoreside distribution rather than any shortage of Jones Act vessels are proving to be the major obstacle to getting relief cargoes to Puerto Rico where they are needed. Still, there have been requests for the DHS to issue a temporary waiver of the act similar to that issued September 8 for areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma — and which was reportedly unused because there was ample available Jones Act tonnage.

Among those leading the charge for the waiver, to nobody's great surprise, is long time Jones Act critic Senator John McCain. Yesterday he wrote Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Acting Secretary Elaine Duke today urging the department to waive the Jones Act for Puerto Rico to aid recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria. He also asked DHS to assess how a long-term waiver or full repeal of the Jones Act would impact recovery efforts of hurricane-damaged communities, including in Florida and Texas.

"The Department of Homeland Security has been given the ability to waive the Jones Act to accommodate national security concerns, and has done so twice in the last month," writes Senator McCain. "These emergency waivers have been valuable to speed up recovery efforts in the impacted regions. However, I am very concerned by the Department's decision not to waive the Jones Act for current relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria. It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster. Now, more than ever, it is time to realize the devastating effect of this policy and implement a full repeal of this archaic and burdensome Act."

You can read the letter HERE

Senator McCain's letter followed one sent to Acting Secretary Duke on September 25 by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) and six other Members of Congress asking that Jones Act be temporarily waived and that Puerto Rico be exempted from requirements that local resources match federal funds expended by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

You can read that letter HERE

Meantime, with more than 3,000 loads of food, supplies and other cargo on its terminal in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and more on the way, executives with Crowley Maritime said yesterday that the key to providing relief to citizens impacted by Hurricane Maria will be expediting local transportation and distribution of the cargo.

"We want to get goods to people as quickly and efficiently as possible, and to do that we need our customers to work with their truckers to take delivery of their cargo," said Jose "Pache" Ayala, vice president, Puerto Rico services. "Once that begins to happen with greater frequency, we will need customers to unload and return empty containers so that we can bring more cargo to the island, which is suffering and in great need of life's necessities."

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.

To handle the influx of cargo, Crowley's logistics group has secured additional warehouse space in Puerto Rico to help process and expedite delivery of needed supplies. Today, the logistics team dispatched 50 relief trucks to deliver relief supplies at various distribution centers around the island. These containers will be unloaded immediately and returned to Crowley for use in bringing in more supplies to residents.

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.

 

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