US Congress refused to ease restrictions on cabotage shipping after the House Natural Resources Committee rejected the proposal for release of transport to/from Puerto Rico from the constraints of the Jones Act. Under the Jones Act, the coastal (cabotage) shipping in USA can be done only by vessels under American flag, or built in US shipyards, or owned and operated by US citizens and US-based companies. However, this restrictive laws seriously reflect over the transportation costs to/from Puerto Rico and causes to high food prices, energy and transport on the island.
“Relief from the Jones Act would allow the cost of living in Puerto Rico to decline, allowing residents to stretch their wages further than before”, said Rep Gary Palmer., who proposed adding an exemption from the law to a larger bill addressing the Puerto Rico debt crisis that House Natural Resources Committee lawmakers have negotiated over the past few months. “If Congress wants to help Puerto Rico, we must provide them with opportunities to better their economy and lower their cost of living, not bail them out without any forward thinking solutions”, he said.
The US-flag interests reacted quickly. The American Maritime Partnership, a coalition representing shipbuilders, vessel operators and other U.S.-flag advocates, said Palmer’s amendment would jeopardize jobs, national security and investments by Jones Act carriers.
“Weakening the Jones Act would harm, not help, the Puerto Rican people and the commonwealth’s economy. In fact, a vote against the Jones Act is a vote to outsource American jobs, undermine national security and degrade homeland security”, said Tom Allegretti, the coalition’s chairman.