This week marks six months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as a powerful Category 4 hurricane, causing widespread damage to the U.S. territory the impacts of which are still being felt to this day.
In the days, weeks and months after the storm, Jones Act ships participated in what FEMA has now called the “largest sea-bridge operation of federal disaster aid in FEMA history”. In fact, in the six months since the Port of San Juan reopened, Jones Act carriers in regular service have delivered approximately 114,000 containers of government and commercial cargo, according to the American Maritime Partnership, which represents the interests of the U.S. domestic shipping industry.
To keep a constant flow of supplies to the island, Jones Act carriers added nine vessels to the regular trade, bringing the total number of vessels serving Puerto Rico to 25. Carriers also added additional 53-foot containers and chassis’ to support increased deliveries to the island, as some even increased vessel speeds to reduce transit times between the mainland and Puerto Rico.
In addition to food, water and other basic humanitarian and commercial supplies, commercial and government cargoes to Puerto Rico included infrastructure materials essential for rebuilding effort. Specialized cargoes to the island also surged, helped along by the versatile fleet of Jones Act ships serving the trade route. Items such as utility trucks, tanker trucks, large generators, and communication equipment, including tens of thousands of electrical poles, have all been delivered in recent months for the rebuilding process. The industry also delivered nearly 7,000 TEUs of water to Puerto Rico aboard a vessel that was re-deployed from the U.S. west coast, setting a record for the largest single commodity shipment ever made on a container ship. Immediately after the storm, three American vessels were also used as floating hotels to provide temporary housing and meals for 729 first responders.
Florida-based Crowley Maritime Corporation, which is one of the main Jones Act carriers to Puerto Rico, said this week it has unloaded more than 200 vessels since Hurricane Maria made landfall, with cargoes consisting of nearly 40,000 commercial loads and 8,000 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) loads. In addition to vital humanitarian supplies, Crowley said it has transported and delivered a combination of more than 40,000 power poles; 7,000 electrical transformers; 10 million miles of wire and cable; and platforms and utility reconstruction equipment and vehicles to help rebuild the electrical infrastructure. The company also handled multiple bridge sections and a 119,000-pound drill to support the roadway reconstruction efforts in the Utuado region.
Crowley, which has about 300 Puerto Rico employees, has served the market since 1954, longer than any other Jones Act carrier in the trade.
“We will continue to work with our customers in Puerto Rico and stateside, including FEMA, to provide them with reliable services to meet the recovery needs of Puerto Rico’s businesses and residents,” said John Hourihan, senior vice president and general manager, Puerto Rico services. “We will be with the people of Puerto Rico for as long as it takes to bring the island back. We are fully invested with new ships coming on line this year, new port terminal facilities, cranes and the like, so people need to know that we will be with them far into the future.”
“As the rebuilding process continues, regular, cost-effective deliveries from domestic Jones Act carriers will be crucial to the long-term recovery of the island, which these carriers are committed to supporting,” said the AMP. “American maritime–including the hundreds of men and women who support this essential industry on the island–will continue to go beyond their call of duty to support Puerto Rico.”