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With fuel and water scarce, stricken Puerto Rico presses for shipping waiver

With fuel and water scarce, stricken Puerto Rico presses for shipping waiver

Postby smix » Wed Sep 27, 2017 6:18 pm

With fuel and water scarce, stricken Puerto Rico presses for shipping waiver
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-p ... SKCN1C22G9
Category: Politics
Published: September 27, 2017

Description: SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico/NEW YORK (Reuters) - As Puerto Rico struggles with a lack of fuel, water and medical supplies following the devastation of Hurricane Maria, it is pressing the Trump administration to lift a bar on foreign ships delivering supplies from the U.S. mainland. The island’s governor is pushing for the federal government to temporarily waive the Jones Act, a law requiring that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by U.S. owned-and-operated ships. The Trump administration has so far not granted this, saying it is evaluating the issue. Many of the U.S. territory’s 3.4 million inhabitants are queuing for scarce supplies of gas and diesel to run generators as the island’s electrical grid remains crippled a week after Maria hit. Government-supplied water trucks have been mobbed. Puerto Rico gets most of its fuel by ship from the United States, but one of its two main ports is closed and the other is operating only during the daytime. “We expect them to waive it (the Jones Act),” Governor Ricardo Rossello told CNN on Wednesday, noting there was a brief waiver issued after Hurricane Irma, which was much less devastating as it grazed past the island en route for Florida earlier this month. Members of Congress from both parties have supported an emergency waiver, he said. The U.S. government has issued periodic Jones Act waivers following severe storms in the past, to allow the use of cheaper or more readily available foreign-flagged ships. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which waived the law after Irma and after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in August, said on Wednesday it was considering a request by members of Congress for a waiver, but had not received any formal requests from shippers or other branches of the federal government. “We are considering the underlying issues and are evaluating whether a waiver should be issued,” a senior DHS official told reporters in a teleconference. On Monday, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives had asked the DHS to waive the act for a year to help relief efforts. The official said a request from a member of Congress was not the usual pathway for waiver requests. While the Trump administration has not formally denied the request, the DHS suggested earlier this week a waiver was not needed. Gregory Moore, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, an office of Homeland Security, said in a statement on Tuesday that an agency assessment showed there was “sufficient capacity” of U.S.-flagged vessels to move commodities to Puerto Rico. “The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” he said.
LACK OF WATER, FUEL
Maria, the most powerful storm to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, caused widespread flooding and damage to homes and infrastructure. Residents are scrambling to find clean water, with experts concerned about a looming public health crisis posed by the damaged water system. On Tuesday, hundreds of people crowded around a government water tanker in the northeastern municipality of Canovanas with containers of every size and shape after a wait that for many had lasted days. Some residents also waited hours for gasoline and diesel to fuel their automobile tanks and power generators to light their homes. U.S. Air Force Colonel Michael Valle, on hand for relief efforts in San Juan, said he was most concerned about “the level of desperation” that could arise if fuel distribution did not return to normal within a couple of weeks. In Washington, Republican leaders who control both chambers of Congress have said they are prepared to boost disaster funding, but are waiting for a detailed request from the Trump administration. It could take a couple of weeks for the administration to make that request, an aide to the House Appropriations Committee said on Tuesday. In the meantime, the administration still has $5 billion in aid in a disaster relief fund, and Congress has also approved about $7 billion more that will become available on Oct. 1, the aide said. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told reporters on Tuesday that Congress has appropriated enough money to cover disaster costs to last until mid-October.



Puerto Rico expects U.S. to lift Jones Act shipping restrictions
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-p ... SKCN1C21R0
Category: Politics
Published: September 27, 2017

Description: (Reuters) - Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said on Wednesday he expected the federal government to waive the Jones Act, which would lift restrictions on ships that can provide aid to the island devastated by Hurricane Maria. He said he has been speaking with members of Congress from both parties who have supported an emergency waiver. “We expect them to waive it,” Rossello said in an interview with CNN. He noted there was a seven-day waiver after Hurricane Irma, which was much less devastating to the island. On Tuesday, the Trump administration said there was no need to waive shipping restrictions to help get fuel and supplies to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, saying it would do nothing to address the island’s damaged ports, the main impediment to shipping. A waiver would allow Puerto Rico to get help not only from U.S. ships but from any ships that can bring aid. “That is critical, particularly for fuel,” he said. “One of the considerations right now is the priority of getting fuel, diesel, gasoline, all across the island. Right now we have enough fuel. We’re limited by the transportation logistics, but at some point of course, getting fuel into the island is going to be critical so that we can have the major functions of telecoms, hospitals, water, to be running appropriately.” The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by American owned-and-operated ships. U.S. Senator John McCain asked acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke on Tuesday to grant an emergency waiver of the law. He said that Puerto Rican residents would have to pay at least twice as much for food, drinking water and other supplies without the waiver.



U.S. mulls request by lawmakers to waive shipping limits on Puerto Rico
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-p ... SKCN1C225A
Category: Politics
Published: September 27, 2017

Description: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security said on Wednesday it is considering a request by members of Congress to waive federal restrictions on shipping to Puerto Rico, but has not received any formal requests from shippers or other branches of the federal government to waive the law. “We are considering the underlying issues and are evaluating whether a waiver should be issued,” said a senior Homeland Security official, who spoke to reporters on the grounds of anonymity. The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by American owned-and-operated ships. Several U.S. lawmakers, including Representative Nydia Velazquez, on Monday asked DHS to waive the Jones Act restrictions for a year to help relief efforts in Puerto Rico where people are suffering from water and food shortages in the wake of Hurricane Maria. But a request from a member of Congress is not the usual pathway by which the department gets waiver requests, the DHS official said. Puerto Rico has long railed against the Jones Act, saying it raises the cost of imported basic commodities, such as food, clothing and fuel. But the official said that the Defense Department and FEMA have not indicated there is a lack of ships to get food and goods to the island. The official did not deny that the law can add costs to goods delivered to the island, an argument made by longtime opponent of the Jones Act, Republican Senator John McCain. But the DHS official said Jones Act exemptions are based solely on the interest of national defense. “The real challenges happen to be on the island itself,” the official said, adding that there were plenty of U.S.-flagged barges and tugs available. DHS has the ability to initiate a waiver to the shipping law, but the official said it is constrained by the national defense parameter. “Right now, we do not have the authority to issue a waiver simply to make goods cost less,” he said.



Trump weighs lifting shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico; industry opposed
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-p ... SKCN1C22JZ
Category: Politics
Published: September 27, 2017

Description: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump said on Wednesday he was thinking about lifting shipping restrictions to help Puerto Rico but noted that many in the shipping industry wanted the limits to stay in place. The Jones Act limits shipping between coasts to U.S. flagged vessels. “We’re thinking about that,” Trump told reporters when asked about lifting the Jones Act restrictions. “But we have a lot of shippers and .... a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted, and we have a lot of ships out there right now.”



U.S. says no need for Puerto Rico shipping waiver
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-storm ... SKCN1C12UI
Category: Politics
Published: September 27, 2017

Description: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Trump administration on Tuesday said there was no need to waive shipping restrictions to help get fuel and supplies to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, because it would do nothing to address the island’s main impediment to shipping, damaged ports. The Jones Act limits shipping between coasts to U.S. flagged vessels. However, in the wake of brutal storms, the government has occasionally issued temporary waivers to allow the use of cheaper, tax free or more readily available foreign-flagged ships. The Department of Homeland Security, which waived the act after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, did not agree an exemption would help this time. On Monday, U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez and seven other representatives asked Elaine Duke, acting head of Homeland Security, to waive the nearly 100-year-old shipping law for a year to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria.Gregory Moore, a spokesman for Customs and Border Protection, an office of Homeland Security, said in a statement that an assessment by the agency showed there was “sufficient capacity” of U.S.-flagged vessels to move commodities to Puerto Rico. “The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability,” Moore said. Puerto Rico has long railed against the Jones Act, saying it makes the cost of imported basic commodities, such as food, clothing and fuel, more expensive. After Homeland’s assessment, Senator John McCain, a Republican and a long time opponent of the Jones Act, sent a letter to Duke asking why the administration opposes a waiver. He asked the department to detail the costs of shipping goods from Florida to Puerto Rico versus the costs of shipping from Florida to the Virgin Islands, which has a permanent Jones Act exemption. “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 said in the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters. The administration’s rationale for a waiver after Harvey and Irma hit Texas, Louisiana and Florida was to ease movement of fuel to places along the U.S. East Coast and make up for temporary outages of high-capacity pipelines. “The situation in Puerto Rico is much different,” Moore said in the statement, adding that most of the humanitarian effort would be carried out with barges, which make up a large portion of the U.S. flagged cargo fleet. Homeland did not immediately return a request for comment on the McCain letter. Backers of a Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico said it would help the relief effort. “Our dependence on fossil fuel imports by sea is hampering the restoration of services,” said Juan Declet-Barreto, an energy expert at the nonprofit group the Union of Concerned Scientists. The administration’s opposition to a waiver “is raising fears on the island that they are going to be left behind in this disaster.” The United States shipped an average of nearly 770,000 barrels of crude oil and oil products like gasoline and diesel annually to Puerto Rico from 2012 to 2016. Supporters of the Jones Act, including ship builders, have said it supports American jobs, including ones in Puerto Rico and keeps shipping routes reliable.



Trump waives U.S. shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico: spokeswoman
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-p ... SKCN1C22G9
Category: Politics
Published: September 28, 2017

Description: WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump waived shipping restrictions on Thursday to help get fuel and supplies to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, the White House said. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a Twitter post that Trump, at the request of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello, “has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately.” The Jones Act limits shipping between coasts to U.S.-flagged vessels.



Trump orders shipping restrictions lifted for storm-hit Puerto Rico
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/usa-puer ... SL2N1M90KQ
Category: Politics
Published: September 28, 2017

Description: SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico, Sept 28 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump lifted restrictions on foreign shipping on Thursday to help get fuel and supplies to Puerto Rico as the U.S. territory reels from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, the White House said. Trump, at the request of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello, “has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a Twitter post. The Jones Act limits shipping between U.S. ports to U.S. owned-and-operated vessels. Puerto Rico’s government had sought a waiver of the law to ensure as many supplies as possible, including badly needed fuel, reach the island of 3.4 million people quickly. Rossello retweeted Sanders’ announcement with a “Thank you @POTUS” - referring to Trump’s official Twitter handle. Maria struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, knocking out power to the entire island, causing widespread flooding and major damage to homes and infrastructure. Even as federal emergency management authorities and the U.S. military have stepped up relief efforts, many residents have voiced exasperation at the prolonged lack of electricity, reliable supplies of drinking water and other essentials. Rossello has strongly praised Trump’s response, defending the Republican administration against complaints of being slow to act and showing too little concern. Critics have said Puerto Rico is not getting the same response as it would if it were a U.S. state, even though its residents are U.S. citizens. The U.S. government has periodically lifted the Jones Act for a temporary period following violent storms, including after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which hit Texas and Florida in late August and earlier this month.



Trump lifts foreign shipping restrictions for storm-hit Puerto Rico
Reuters

URL: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-p ... SKCN1C31S8
Category: Politics
Published: September 28, 2017

Description: SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump temporarily lifted restrictions on foreign shipping from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico on Thursday to help get fuel and supplies quickly to the U.S. territory as it reels from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. Puerto Rico’s government had sought a waiver of the Jones Act, which limits shipping between U.S. ports to U.S. owned-and-operated vessels, to ensure there was no impediment to getting supplies to the Caribbean island. Puerto Rico’s 3.4 million people are facing severe shortages of water, food and fuel, as well as power outages. Maria struck on Sept. 20 as the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, knocking out electricity to the entire island, causing widespread flooding and major damage to homes and infrastructure. The waiver, which will be in force for 10 days and will cover all products being shipped to Puerto Rico, was signed on Thursday morning by acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke, the DHS said in a statement. The waiver aimed to ”ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations,” Duke said. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders used Twitter to announce that Trump had authorized the waiver at the request of Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello. The governor retweeted her post with a “Thank you @POTUS” - referring to Trump’s official Twitter handle.
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U.S. Shipping Lobby: Letting Foreign Ships Bring Goods to Puerto Rico Could Endanger National Security

Postby smix » Thu Sep 28, 2017 7:19 pm

U.S. Shipping Lobby: Letting Foreign Ships Bring Goods to Puerto Rico Could Endanger National Security
The Intercept

URL: https://theintercept.com/2017/09/28/u-s ... -security/
Category: Politics
Published: September 28, 2017

Description: Allowing foreign ships to bring goods to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico would be a grave threat to national security, warned a handful of American shipping companies who have the trade routes locked down thanks to a century-old law. They wanted to see that law left in place, thank you very much. Much to their discontent, President Donald Trump’s administration announced Thursday morning that it would temporarily waive the law, known as the Jones Act. Puerto Rico, suffering from the combined forces of economic collapse, debt-driven austerity, and Hurricane Maria’s devastation, faces restrictions on imports from foreign registered ships under the Jones Act, a law supported by a small but powerful group of American companies that dominate U.S.-Puerto Rico shipping routes. The Jones Act, created over 100 years ago to shore up the domestic shipbuilding industry, imposes stiff fines on foreign-built and registered ships that move cargo between U.S. ports. (Foreign ships are allowed into port if they originated from a foreign country, but not if they docked in another U.S. port first.) Many have recently argued that the law has dragged down the Puerto Rican economy by artificially increasing costs for island residents and businesses. And there is outrage that the Trump administration denied a temporary waiver to Puerto Rico from the Jones Act in response to the hurricane — despite the fact that a similar waiver was granted for hurricane disasters in Texas and Florida. Resistance to the waiver came as millions of Americans were without clean drinking water, facing a life-threatening situation that has already turned deadly for some. Despite a push by lawmakers to repeal or significantly change the Jones Act in order to revitalize Puerto Rico, the shipbuilding industry pushed back. Fair Kim, counsel of the American Maritime Congress, a nonprofit lobbying group representing the U.S. shipping industry, disputed calls for a repeal of the law, arguing that such a move could create profound national security consequences. Kim claimed the Jones Act is fairly similar to rules that govern the trucking and airline industries, and those who argued that the act is protectionist fail to appreciate the danger of more foreign ships into U.S. ports. “You don’t have Air Yemen flying Chicago-to-Cleveland routes on an Iraqi-flagged aircraft with standards from Yemen and pilots that are Russian,” Kim told The Intercept. The original Jones Act, officially titled the Merchant Marine Act but known by the name of its congressional sponsor, was passed in 1920 after World War I in reaction to the destruction of U.S. merchant vessels by the German navy. The national security concerns that ushered in the law, deemed by media at the time as an “American first” shipping law, are still relevant, according to the shipping industry. “You don’t want a foreign country to control the acquisition, design, and construction of a war ship,” Kim argued. Military cargo is currently shipped all over the world, from supplying South Korea to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, through U.S.-flagged merchant marine vessels. If the Jones Act is repealed over Puerto Rico concerns, Kim said there would be a depletion of not only U.S.-flagged vessels, but a brain drain of the merchant marine workforce. “You go hot with a war in Korea, you’re going to have the lowest bidder, lowest international bidder, again, a Malaysian-owned vessel that’s chartered in the Marshall Islands, that’s flagged to Belize, with a Croatian and Pakistani crew on board, with a cargo of U.S. munitions,” Kim said. He added that his theoretical example was “hyperbole” but “that’s where we’re headed” without the Jones Act. The act, however, only covers vessels traveling between two U.S. ports. About 8,000 foreign vessels already make over 50,000 visits to U.S. ports under current law. Kim noted that the industry would not dispute a temporary Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico but does not believe such a policy is necessary at this time. “If a waiver is granted, of course we’re not going to stand in the way of that,” Kim said. “Right now our position is that there is no need for a waiver. There is no need for it because there is already excess capacity for U.S. vessels into Puerto Rico.” Shipments from the U.S. mainland to Puerto Rico are controlled largely by a small group of Jones Act-enabled companies, including Crowley Maritime Corp., Trailer Bridge Inc., Sea Star Line LLC, and National Shipping of America. Industry lobbyists had raised similar claims over the last year as they had fought to maintain Jones Act rules for Puerto Rico. “A few have taken this legislative activity as an opportunity to urge that a Jones Act exemption for Puerto Rico be included in the package,” said Michael Roberts, vice president of Crowley Maritime, during a hearing last year on reform issues for the island. “They have offered no credible proof that such a change would help Puerto Rico, and we are confident it would do more harm than good both for Puerto Rico and for the country generally. “Such a change would put at risk the reliable, efficient service the island currently receives, as well as hundreds of private-sector jobs on the island, with no offsetting gains. It would also send a chilling message that would bring further investment in vessels built in U.S. shipyards to a standstill,” Roberts added. Companies, including Sea Star Line and Crowley, had lobbied on the Jones Act using an array of third-party trade associations, including the Transportation Institute, the American Maritime Congress, and the American Maritime Partnership. The Transportation Institute, for instance, retains former Democratic Sen. John Breaux and Republican Sen. Trent Lott as lobbyists to maintain the Jones Act and influence discussions on Puerto Rico reform issues. Asked for comment by The Intercept, Tyler Edgar, a spokesperson for Tote Inc, a shipping conglomerate that owns Sea Star Line, pointed to a statement by the American Maritime Partnership that sharply criticizes the effort to rollback the Jones Act over the crisis in Puerto Rico. The statement claims that granting a Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico could “overwhelm the system, creating unnecessary backlogs and causing confusion on the distribution of critical supplies throughout the island.” Shipping industry voices contend that the main issue with Puerto Rico’s lack of resources stems from internal distribution issues and logistical problems relating to how supplies are moved from the port to where they are needed. But critics not only point to increased costs for Puerto Rican residents from the Jones Act, but also question the virtues of the U.S. shipping industry. A Department of Justice antitrust investigation found that between 2002 and 2008, Jones Act shipping firms Sea Star, Crowley, and Horizon conspired to fix prices on commercial cargo shipped to Puerto Rico. The investigation led to the conviction of the former president of Sea Star Line, who was was sentenced in 2013 to serve five years in prison for engaging in the conspiracy, one of the longest prison terms for an antitrust violation. In a separate case, both Sea Star Line and Horizon paid $3.4 million to settle claims arising from a whistleblower, who claimed that the firms engaged in a price-fixing scheme on government cargo between Puerto Rico and the U.S mainland.
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