WASHINGTON – US President Donald Trump authorized foreign ships on Thursday to deliver much-needed supplies to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, the White House press secretary said.
Trump, acting at the request of Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rossello, waived the Merchant Marine Act of 1920 (also known as the Jones Act), a federal statute that requires all goods transported by ship between US ports be carried on US-flagged vessels built in the US, owned by US citizens and crewed by US citizens or US permanent residents, Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter.
The waiver is effective immediately, she tweeted.
Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he was considering suspending the Jones Act to help the US commonwealth’s recovery effort, although he said there was a lot of resistance from the US shipping industry.
In a statement, the Department of Homeland Security said the waiver of the law would be in effect for 10 days and allow foreign-flagged ships to supply Puerto Rico with fuel and other products.
The decision comes eight days after Category 4 Hurricane Maria charted a path of destruction through the Caribbean island, severely damaging its electrical infrastructure and telecommunications systems.
Most of the island is still completely in the dark at night and phone communication is unreliable, while people wait in massive lines for the chance to buy fuel or take cash out of ATM machines.
Earlier this month, the US government suspended the Jones Act for two weeks to facilitate shipments of refined products in the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which caused severe flooding and destroyed buildings and infrastructure in the states of Texas, Florida and Louisiana.
Prior to that waiver, the last time the Jones Act was suspended was in December 2012, when strong winds and torrential rain associated with Superstorm Sandy affected 24 US states.