President Donald Trump said Wednesday that he was hesitant to lift the Jones Act in order to aid Puerto Rico following a devastating hurricane on the island because of “a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”
The Jones Act restricts shipping between American ports to American ships with American crews and owners. It was waived earlier this month after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma hit the United States in order to ease the shipment of fuel to impacted areas.
A week after Hurricane Maria made landfall, the Department of Homeland Security has not issued a similar waiver for Puerto Rico, despite devastating damage to the island. A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection on Monday said “[t]he limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability.” On Wednesday, though, Trump said the shipping industry was against a Jones Act waiver.
“On Puerto Rico, Mr. President, why not lift the Jones Act like you did in Texas and Florida?” a reporter asked as Trump made his way to Marine One.
“Well, we’re thinking about that,” he responded. “But we have a lot of shippers, and a lot of people — a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted. And we have a lot of ships out there right now.”
He went on to thank the governor of Puerto Rico and mayor of San Juan for being “very generous with their statements.” Trump said of the U.S. territory: “That place was just destroyed.”
Speaking on CNN after Trump’s statement, Jeremy Konyndyk, the former head of USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, said Trump’s reasoning “almost sounds like profiteering by U.S. shipping companies off an emergency like this.”