The Trump administration on Tuesday denied a request from several members of Congress to waive the Jones Act, which limits shipping between coasts to U.S.-flagged vessels, therefore preventing cheaper and more readily-available foreign ships from helping to get gasoline and other supplies to Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria, according to Reuters.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) under President Trump waived the act following hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The agency said Tuesday that waiving the Jones Act for Puerto Rico would not help the U.S. territory due to damaged ports.
“The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” a spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection told Reuters.
The Hill added:
In a letter to the department on Tuesday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) urged DHS to rethink the decision, citing the agency’s willingness to waive the Jones Act for relief efforts in the wake of hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
“The Department of Homeland Security has been given the ability to waive the Jones Act to accommodate national security concerns, and has done so twice in the last month,” McCain wrote.
“These emergency waivers have been valuable to speed up recovery efforts in the impacted regions. However, I am very concerned by the Department’s decision not to waive the Jones Act for current relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria.”
McCain called the department’s decision “unacceptable” and warned that Puerto Rico faces a humanitarian crisis.
The island could be without power for up to six months, according to official estimates.
“It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster,” McCain wrote.
“Now, more than ever, it is time to realize the devastating effect of this policy and implement a full repeal of this archaic and burdensome Act.”