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Puerto Rico crisis: What the Jones Act controversy is all about

02 October 2017
Puerto Rico crisis: What the Jones Act controversy is all about

He joined the growing list of officials who argued that lifting the the Jones Act - a federal law created to protect the financial interests of U.S. shipbuilders by limiting shipping by foreign vessels - would help expedite supplies to the ravaged island.

The Trump administration announced it will waive federal restrictions on foreign ships' transportation of cargo to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

The White House was under pressure to waive the Jones Act to help Puerto Rico, as it had for Texas and Florida in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

The roughly 100-year-old Jones Act requires goods shipped between American ports to travel on USA -flagged ships with American crews. The law was meant to strengthen the US shipping industry.

In normal times, critics say, it raises the cost of goods, because Jones Act ships are scarcer and more expensive than foreign carriers.

The Department of Homeland Security initially said the law didn't need to be waived because most humanitarian relief is delivered by USA ships.

With the electrical grid nearly completely wiped out and untold numbers of people stranded without access to water and food in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Ricans- who, it can not be said often enough, are American citizens- are truly facing a crisis.

The Jones Act, when it was established in 1920, was meant to promote shipping by US -owned and operated vessels.

Ricardo Rosello said he had formally asked for a waiver, but yesterday President Donald Trump was unwilling to do so, he said, because people in the shipping industry didn't want him to. When the Homeland Security Department earlier this week declined to issue a similar waiver for Puerto Rico, it said port capacity was the bigger obstacle.

Things are awful in Puerto Rico following a direct hit with Hurricane Maria, and for numerous people who live there, problems are only mounting as time drags on without power, communication, or even clean drinking water. After those 10 days, the Jones Act will kick back in and the island will again have to be paying much more for imports of goods than it should.

The administration waived the act for Southeastern states from September 8 through 22, after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.