The U.S. territory of Puerto Rico was pummeled by more than one hurricane in the couple of weeks. They are in desperate need of supplies, such as gasoline. As the U.S. works diligently to provide them with relief, there are still obstacles to work around.
For example, several Congress members requested that shipping restrictions to the island be waived. However, that request was originally denied by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The restrictions comes from the Jones Act. The act is described by NBC as:
Signed into law by President Woodrow Wilson two years after World War I ended, the Jones Act was passed as a protective measure against foreign competition, particularly Germany. By restricting trade between U.S. ports to U.S.-flagged vessels with U.S. crews, America would always have a robust fleet of boats and sailors on hand in the event that German submarines attacked the U.S. again.
A Customs and Border Protection spokesperson said, “The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability.” Meaning that even if they were waived, it would not help much because the damaged ports prevent the ships from being able to dock.
The Hill reports:
A decision is “unlikely” to be made Wednesday, senior Department of Homeland Security officials said, as DHS works with other parts of the government to make a determination.
The Trump administration has faced fierce backlash following reports on Tuesday that the agency would not be temporarily lifting the Jones Act rule, which requires that cargo shipments between U.S. ports only take place on American-made and operated vessels.
Officials maintain that there are currently enough U.S. ships to deliver cargo to Puerto Rico, which means it may be difficult to justify issuing a waiver.
The DHS issued a two-week waiver for Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma – a move that was requested by the Department of Defense (DoD).
Critics argue it only makes sense to provide a waiver to Puerto Rico if similar ones were issued for Texas and Florida. They argue it could help get gasoline and other supplies delivered more quickly and cheaply.
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