President Trump, acting on a request from Gov. Ricardo Rosello, waived restrictions imposed by the 1920 Jones Act to hasten relief efforts to Puerto Rico which was ravaged by Hurricane Maria. To date, one week removed from the hurricane’s devastation, Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million citizens still have no power. There are shortages in basic supplies and necessities such as water, food, medicine and oil.
The Jones Act is a maritime regulation enacted in 1920 which requires all goods shipped from one American port to another must be transported on a ship that is made, owned and crewed by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. It was established to protect the American shipping industry and ensure the employment of U.S. citizens.
However, for Puerto Rico it means basic shipment of goods from the island to the United States must be transported through ships that have been protected by the Act and therefore, cost more. The carryover effect of the 1920 Jones Act is that it drives up the cost of everything Puerto Ricans buy on the island or the U.S. mainland. Cost of living becomes higher for Puerto Ricans.
By suspending the 1920 Jones Act, much needed goods can now be transported to Puerto Rico faster and at more affordable costs. The Act was suspended by the Trump Administration to speed up relief efforts in Texas and Florida which were similarly hit hard by recent hurricanes.
Gov. Rosello expects the 1920 Jones Act to be suspended for at least one week as it was in both Texas and Florida.
“The federal government and the President are aware of what’s happening here and they have responded to our petitions quickly with a compromise to help the situation in Puerto Rico,” stated Gov. Rosello in a press briefing at the San Juan convention center.
President Trump received media backlash for seemingly waffling on lifting the law to help Puerto Rico.
It remains to be seen how significant an impact suspending the Act would have on Puerto Rico as the island has other persistent problems to deal with. Roads were severely damaged and travel routes for supplies have been compromised.
But at the very least, Puerto Ricans can be assured that supplies delivered through ocean routes would arrive faster than previously possible had the Jones Act remained in place.