An attempt by Puerto Rico to amend the Jones Act in order to give some relief to the beleaguered island economy has received a figurative shot across the bow from an influential private body that advocates for US Navy interests.
Last Wednesday Puerto Rico released a five-year restructuring plan for tackling its economic woes. The unincorporated US territory is in an economic downspin and has public debts which officials describe as “unpayable”. The five-year plan included the proposal to waive the Jones Act.
The 1920 Act mandates use of US-made vessels to deliver cargo on US waters and between US ports. Not only must the ships be constructed in the US but they must be US flagged, US owned and crewed by US citizens and permanent residents.
Critics say the law goes against free competition and leads to higher costs for shipping and goods.
But the Navy League of the United States, a civilian organization with 50,000 members dedicated to supporting naval interests, has countered with a claim that any loosening or undermining of the Act would be a threat to national security.
Back in late July the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit turned away a challenge to the Jones Act brought by six individuals and one corporation in Hawaii who had shipping interests.