By Will Gonzalez
October 16, 2017

Permanently exempting Puerto Rico from the Jones Act will help the U.S. territory recover from Hurricane Maria by widely opening its market for exports from the mainland, including Pennsylvania.

The 1920 Jones Act requires all shipping between two U.S. ports to be via naval vessels owned, built, and flagged in the U.S. It was enacted at a time when the size of a country’s naval prowess was the measure of a nation’s might. Its usefulness in protecting our national interests is outdated in the age of globalization and technological advancements. The steep decline in the number of ships eligible to carry cargo under the act demonstrates its ineffectiveness. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the number of U.S.-flagged oceangoing freighters dropped from 2,926 to 169 between 1960 and 2016, while the total number of freighters navigating the planet’s oceans increased from 17,317 to 41,674.

The laws of supply and demand, plus myriad other factors, make U.S. shipping one of the most expensive modes of moving ocean cargo. This cost is detrimental to Puerto Rico. A 2010 University of Puerto Rico study concluded that the island lost $537 million per year as a result of the Jones Act. Although some experts claim the act’s effect on the Puerto Rican economy is “uncertain,” most agree that the net effect is negative. A 2012 report by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York stated that the act boosts the cost of imported goods to island residents, makes exports less competitive, and diminishes the viability of Puerto Rico as a major regional trans-shipment port.

Hurricane Maria, the fifth-strongest storm ever to hit the U.S., washed away any doubts about the need to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act. The storm left the island without electricity, killed at least 48 people, destroyed thousands of homes, and caused more than $95 billion in damages. Puerto Rico does not have the options of interstate trucking, rail, or pipelines to transport the large volume of material, food, and fuel needed to rebuild the island following the storm. It is inhumane to let the Jones Act bottleneck progress when there are 3.5 million U.S. citizens in distress. Permanently exempting Puerto Rico from the Jones Act also would help the island address its $72 billion debt.

To read more, please visit..