Early on Thursday morning, Donald Trump finally raised shipping limitations imposed by the Jones Act. The change—announced in a tweet by Sarah Huckabee Sanders—following the furor when Trump declared that he was putting the interest of shipping companies ahead of the lives of Americans on Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Trump said he was initially considering whether to implement a temporary waiver of the Jones Act to allow it, but decided against doing so as “a lot of people that work in the shipping industry…don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”
The Act, which goods traveling from one site in the US to another must travel on ships not only owned by US companies, but also built and crewed in the US, not only severely limited the amount of material that could be delivered to Puerto Rico, but meant that prices for goods delivered to the island are much higher than they should be. The Jones Act had been temporarily waived for both Florida and Texas following hurricanes there, but until Thursday, Trump put the interest of shipping companies ahead of needs in Puerto Rico.
Additional shipments coming in and lowered prices for supplies should both be a boost to Puerto Rico. However, for much of the island they won’t make an immediate impact thanks to a failure at the next link in the logistical chain.
Distributors for big-box companies and smaller retailers are unloading 4,000 20-foot containers full of necessities like food, water and soap this week at a dock in Puerto Rico’s capital operated by Crowley Maritime Corp. In the past few days, Tote Maritime’s terminal has taken the equivalent of almost 3,000. The two facilities have become choke points in the effort to aid survivors of Hurricane Maria.
There’s a shortage of people to unload the containers and drive trucks to areas outside the capital, and military personal being sent in are a fraction of those sent to other disasters.