Move to ease Jones Act meets opposition

perluisiJULY 29, 2013 — The American Maritime Partnership (AMP) is opposing legislation introduced by the Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, to relax the U.S.-build requirement of the Jones Act for particular vessel types operating in the Puerto Rico trade.

Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi

The Resident Commissioner is a non-voting member of the U.S. House of Representatives elected by the voters of the Puerto Rico every four years. The Resident Commissioner is the only member of the House of Representatives who serves a four-year term and functions in every respect as a Representative except being denied a vote on the final disposition of legislation on the House floor.

Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi says his Puerto Rico Interstate Commerce Improvement Act of 2013 which would amend Section 27 of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act, in order to increase the number of maritime vessels that would be able to transport energy supplies, agricultural products and other bulk cargo between ports in the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico and other U.S. ports.

He asserts that the legislation is based on findings made by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in a March 2013 report prepared at his request.

"The GAO report indicates that there are insufficient Jones Act-qualified bulk cargo vessels to meet current and future demand in Puerto Rico for certain products, such as energy supplies and agricultural inputs," says Mr. Pierluisi. "As a result, there is a well-founded concern that the Jones Act is hindering domestic maritime commerce in the case of Puerto Rico. This hurts businesses and consumers in both the 50 states and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico."

Not everyone agrees with Mr. Pierluisi's reading of the GAO report.

"We strongly oppose Mr. Pierluisi's legislation because it would directly undermine America's national security," says the American Maritime Partnership. "The non-partisan Government Accountability Office recently warned in a study specific to Puerto Rico that the 'military strategy of the United States relies on the use of commercial U.S.-flag ships and crews and the availability of a shipyard industrial base to support' the nation's defense.

"The study also found that the U.S. domestic container shipping fleet has a long history of providing regular, reliable service to the island, and in the past few years also offered significant rate reductions.

"But more specific to Mr. Pierliusi's concern regarding the availability of natural gas to Puerto Rico, there are fully compliant American vessels eligible to transport Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) once Puerto Rico develops the capacity to receive it. There are also special provisions of law that already allow LNG to move to the island on foreign vessels from the U.S. Whether it is LNG or any other cargo needed by the Puerto Rican people, the American maritime industry stands ready to work with the Commissioner to ensure that the demand is met."

You can read the GAO Report HERE

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