U.S. Maritime Industry Dispels Jones Act Misinformation in Washington

Workers unload containers of shipping company Crowley from a barge after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria at the port in San Juan, Puerto Rico, September 26, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez

American shipping industry executives were in Washington, D.C. Tuesday to participate in a panel discussion during a House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee Democrats hearing on the Jones Act and its impacts on hurricane relief efforts in Puerto Rico.

The panel of industry experts included Anthony Chiarello, President and CEO of TOTE, Michael Roberts, Senior Vice President, General Counsel of Crowley Maritime Corporation, John Graykowski, former Acting U.S. Maritime Administrator at MARAD, and Brian Schoeneman, legislative director for the Seafarers International Union, who were looking to dispel the rumors in the media that the Jones Act has hampered the relief efforts in the Puerto Rico.

The truth is quite the opposite, actually.

According to Tote and Crowley, which operate two of the three receiving terminals in San Juan where ships would unload, to the best of their knowledge, not a single foreign vessel has utilized the waiver to deliver cargo from the U.S. to Puerto Rico. That is, the U.S.-flag fleet has delivered on every request from FEMA or the U.S. government with regards to hurricane relief shipments from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico. 

“Has there been any requirement for shipments from a U.S. port to Puerto Rico that has not been met by the Jones Act carriers?,” asked committee member Rep. Garamendi.

“Not to our knowledge,” responded both Chiarello and Roberts.

“You have received no requests from FEMA, from DHS, from the military to move equipment or goods from an American port to Puerto Rico, that has not been met?” Garamendi reiterated.

“That is correct,” the panel said.

When asked by Rep. Larsen if there is a practical reason for the DHS to extend the waiver further beyond its current expiration, TOTE’s CEO Chiarello responded:

“It didn’t make sense to us why the waiver was put in place in the first place, so an extension of the waiver would make even less sense. We have the capacity, we’re moving the freight. There isn’t a bottleneck of cargo to get to the island, the bottleneck is on the island.”

Adding to that point, Crowley’ Michael Robert’s explained:

“The problem with the 10-day waiver and any extension of it is that it is a blanket waiver. It applies to everyone [shipping cargo to Puerto Rico]. And let me emphasize that our top priority is to help the people of Puerto Rico get the supplies they need. If there was a particular movement that couldn’t be satisfied with a Jones Act vessel, we would not stand in the way of getting that done quickly. That’s just not the case now.”

The Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke approved a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico on September 28.

The Jones Act requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported on American-built ships that are owned and crew by Americans.

To better understand the debate over the Jones Act in Puerto Rico, we encourage you to watch the Jones Act questioning during Tuesday’s hearing below.  

Rep. John Garamendi (CA-03) questioning:

Rep. Peter DeFazio (OR-04) questioning:

Congressman Rick Larsen (WA-02) questioning:

Congressman Elijah Cummings (MD-07) questioning:

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47) questioning: