The US government has waived Jones Act regulations to ensure enough fuel supplies in areas affected by the ongoing Hurricane Irma and the recent Hurricane Harvey.
Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke signed the waiver, which will be in effect for seven days.
The Jones Act is a 1920 piece of legislation which mandates that all items transported between US ports must be done by vessels that are built, flagged, owned and crewed by US parties.
Waiver will give oil and gas operators the option to use foreign ships to transport petroleum in the affected areas.
As of Saturday night, Irma was starting to make an impact on the Florida peninsula. Revised forecasts predicted a bigger impact on the west (Gulf of Mexico) coast than the east (Atlantic) coast, with Fort Myers, Tampa and, most especially, St Petersburg, expected to take the worst hit, probably on Monday.
Authorities were still warning east coast Floridians who have not yet evacuated to not be complacent and to beware possible storm surges.
The storm, at one time a Category 5, had been downgraded to a Category 3 after losing some its power when it passed over Cuba. But the warm waters between Florida and Cuba gave it renewed strength.
Irma left a trail of devastation across the Caribbean but by Saturday the US Coast Guard (USCG) was reopening ports in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, which were both glanced by the storm.
San Juan, Puerto Rico’s main port, was fully open to commercial vessels. But other ports there were open with restrictions only.