Last week President Trump temporarily removed Jones Act restrictions preventing foreign flagged ships from carrying aid to Puerto Rico. While the gesture is welcome, Costas Paris and Paul Page write that the real reason Puerto Rico’s people are suffering isn’t ships, it’s trucks. Paris and Page report:
Lifting the restrictions on foreign-flag vessels serving hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico will help quell criticism over the relief efforts, but logistics experts say the action won’t do much to speed desperately needed supplies to the island’s shattered interior.
The Department of Homeland Security on Thursday waived enforcement of the Jones Actfor 10 days to allow foreign ships to carry aid to the U.S. territory. The Trump administration acted after the severe damage to the island became clearer and Puerto Rico’s governor asked for a waiver to get goods delivered.
But shipping executives say there is ample humanitarian aid reaching the island on U.S.-flagged ships and foreign tankers are already allowed to supply fuel.
“The pictures of miles-long lines at gas stations in Puerto Rico are very strong, but to blame the Jones Act for fuel shortages simply doesn’t fly,” said Tom Kloza, chief analyst at Oil Price information Service, a data provider for refined oil products.
Mr. Kloza said most of Puerto Rico’s fuel imports come on foreign-flag tankers from Canada and Europe. In June, U.S. refiners supplied 223,000 barrels of gas to the island on Jones Act vessels, or about 15% of Puerto Rico’s fuel needs that month.
Officials at Crowley Maritime Corp., a Jacksonville, Fla.-based cargo shipping company that benefits from the Jones Act, say they are “disappointed” the law has been criticized and that they don’t believe the waiver will offer much help.
“For some days in serving Puerto Rico we have been searching for where we might need additional help in the supply chain and we haven’t identified anything related to the Jones Act,” said John Hourihan, Crowley’s general manager of Puerto Rico services.
The company said it had 4,100 containers with both relief supplies and commercial cargo waiting at the seaport on Thursday. Another carrier, TOTE Maritime, said earlier this week it had more than 3,000 shipping containers stacked up at the port awaiting transport.
“The problem we have is that there are more containers coming in to the port than are going out the gate,” said Mr. Hourihan.
Read more here.