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Puerto Rico's Challenges After Hurricane Strengthen Case Against The Jones Act
For Puerto Rico, getting access to much-needed fuel and supplies in the immediate aftermath of the hurricane was a debilitating challenge. The island's unnecessary troubles demonstrate that it is past time to reform an obscure 1920 law governing shipments between U.S. ports.
For hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, getting access to much-needed fuel and supplies in the immediate aftermath of the storm was a debilitating challenge. The island's unnecessary troubles once again demonstrate that it is past time to reform an obscure 1920 law governing fuel and other shipments between U.S. ports.
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, commonly known as the Jones Act, requires that marine shipments between U.S. ports be made on U.S.-built, -flagged and -crewed ships. Intended to ensure the viability of a U.S. shipbuilding industry after World War I, and the availability of U.S. ships in a national emergency, the law substantially increases the cost of shipping — including for fuel — between U.S. ports. That burden disproportionately falls on U.S. island states and territories. While this problem garners the attention of lawmakers after catastrophic events, when the need to deliver fuel and emergency supplies quickly is critical, it exists every day for residents of these areas.
The Jones Act increases the cost of fuel and other goods and reduces the ease of shipping between U.S. ports for several reasons. Being manufactured in the United States, Jones Act-approved ships cost more to build. Likewise, being crewed by U.S. citizens and flying a U.S. flag, they cost more to operate. As a result, it is typically cheaper to ship fuel from the U.S. Gulf Coast to Europe than to the U.S. East Coast because shipments to Europe use foreign vessels that are less expensive than Jones Act ships...