Department of Homeland Security says no need to extend Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico

The US government’s Department of Homeland Security (DHS) said on Thursday it does not think it is necessary to extend the temporary waiver of the Jones Act to help Puerto Rico, according to Reuters.

A 10-day waiver was issued on September 28 and expires on Sunday.

Its effect was to lift the provisions of the Jones Act which require goods transported between US ports to be carried on vessels that are US-made, US-owned and US-operated.

In the event, the intention of expanding the relief effort to Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria was hardly realized as there were stockpiles of relief materials in the island’s ports from Jones Act compliant ships alone.

The real problem, most experts agree, has been the onward delivery of the items once ashore – a backlog caused by on-land logistics and damaged infrastructure – not the lack of foreign ships delivering the cargoes.

DHS spokesman David Lapan said: “There is an ample supply of Jones Act-qualified vessels to ensure that cargo is able to reach Puerto Rico.”

He did allow that DHS would remain open to considering any requests for non-Jones Act ships in relation to Puerto Rico if such ships were needed for national defence reasons.

US Senator John McCain, Republican from Arizona, and a long-time foe of the Joes Act advocated for the temporary waiver but also went further.

On September 28, the same day as the waiver began, he lodged a bill to eliminate the Jones Act permanently for Puerto Rico. Another US territory in the region, the US Virgin Islands, is already exempted from the Act.

McCain’s previous attempts to axe the 1920 law in its entirety have all failed. He criticizes the Act as being an outmoded, protectionist measure that adds unnecessarily to the cost of living for Puerto Rico.

Defenders of the Act, primarily members of the US maritime sector and the military, say it provides a valuable layer of national security and it is a source of employment for Americans.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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