The Trump Administration has approved a temporary waiver of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico amid public outcry to suspend the shipping regulation to help aid the U.S. commonwealth recover after Hurricane Maria devastated the island one week ago.
Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke approved the waiver of the federal Jones Act early Thursday morning in recognition of the severe impacts on Puerto Rico from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The decision follows a request Wednesday from the governor of Puerto Rico and the Secretary of Defense’s determination that a waiver is in the interest of national defense, the DHS said in a statement.
The waiver will be in effect for 10 days after signature and covers all products being shipped to Puerto Rico.
“This waiver will ensure that over the next ten days, all options are available to move and distribute goods to the people of Puerto Rico. It is intended to ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of these devastating storms,” said Acting Secretary Duke.
The Jones Act requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported on American-built ships that are owned and crew by Americans.
The waiver comes after the Trump Administration initially hesitated to approve the waiver, saying the bigger problem was with distribution than the availability of qualified American ships.
“The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” a spokesman for the DHS said Tuesday.
Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello thanked Trump on Twitter for approving the waiver.
“Really our biggest challenge has been the logistical assets to try to get some of the food and some of the water to different areas of Puerto Rico. We need truck drivers,” said Rossello in an interview with MSNBC.
“The food is here, the water is here. We welcome more help. But critically, what we need is equipment,” Rossello said.
The last Jones Act waiver was issued earlier this month to facilitate the movement of petroleum products due to impacts of Hurricane Harvey and Irma. The waiver expired after two weeks after signing without a single request to use the waiver to book a foreign vessel.