DHS won't extend unnecessary Jones Act waiver

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

OCTOBER 6, 2017 — The Department of Homeland Security will not extend the 10 day waiver of the Jones Act for Puerto Rico that it issued on September 28.

""We believe that extending the waiver is unnecessary to support the humanitarian relief efforts on the island," Reuters quotes DHS spokesman David Lapan.

'There is an ample supply of Jones Act-qualified vessels to ensure that cargo is able to reach Puerto Rico," he added.

With efforts in Puerto Rico focused on internal distribution of the tons of relief cargo already delivered there, it is becoming clear that no waiver was ever needed. Still, that did not deter U.S. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Mike Lee (R-UT) from introducing legislation that would permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, or the Jones Act, "to aid recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Maria and encourage long-term economic growth."


Larry I. Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO (TTD), issued this statement in response to the McCain-Lee legislation:

"The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico is being used by long-time opponents of the Jones Act to attack a law that promotes U.S. jobs and is critical to our national security. Damaging misinformation is being peddled about the Jones Act in an effort to weaken the law and advance the financial interests of foreign shipping companies.

"The claim that the Jones Act is hindering relief efforts in Puerto Rico is simply false. Already, U.S.-flag and other vessels have delivered thousands of containers full of relief supplies to the territory. Damaged infrastructure on the island has prevented these supplies from reaching those in need. Capacity of U.S. vessels is not the problem, and repealing the Jones Act cannot fix roads and bridges that have been flooded or power grids that are offline.

"Some claim the Jones Act is directly responsible for Puerto Rico's economic crisis — another accusation that is simply not true. The economic problems facing Puerto Rico are caused by Congress' failure to provide real fiscal relief and an economic stimulus package the territory needs, and have nothing to do with the Jones Act.

"Furthermore, when American vessels are unable to provide relief during emergencies, longstanding federal law allows for the temporary waiver of the Jones Act. Waivers should be granted judiciously when merited, and not for ideological reasons or at the request of foreign shippers. We will not oppose waivers that are needed in emergency situations when U.S. vessels are not available.

"Since 1920, the Jones Act has played an important role in protecting our national security by ensuring U.S. crews and ships are always available for military and humanitarian purposes, and by supporting American jobs. Repealing this law will lead to the outsourcing of good-paying American jobs, paving the way for foreign shippers to cherry-pick crews from countries where labor and wage laws are lax. There has never been a need to repeal this law, and there is not one now."

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