The United States shipped an average of almost 770,000 barrels of crude oil and oil products like gasoline and diesel annually to Puerto Rico from 2012 to 2016.
The Department of Homeland Security, which waived the act after hurricanes Harvey and Irma, did not agree an exemption would help this time.
Under the Act, for a ship to be allowed cabotage, or transportation of goods and people between two harbors in the same country, it has to satisfy all three of these conditions: be United States built, USA owned, and US-flag-carrying (which means the ship is registered as American).
"Things could change, but our current assessment is that a waiver is not needed", DHS spokesman David Lapan said in an email to Mother Jones Wednesday afternoon. Today, Puerto Rico needs our help. But longer term, increasing the supply of delivery boats would help Puerto Rico, which was already in dire straits before the arrival of Maria.
The administration has been facing pressure to temporarily lift shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico in order to help deliver emergency supplies more quickly and cheaply to the US island territory, which is facing widespread food, water and medical supply shortages after Hurricane Maria.
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The result, according to a government-commissioned report by former International Monetary Fund economists: Puerto Rico pays twice as much for imports from the US as neighboring US Virgin Island, which is exempted from the Jones Act. "Our island of Puerto Rico has been hit by the two most devastating hurricanes we've ever seen Irma and Maria".
"I am very concerned by the Department's decision not to waive the Jones Act for current relief efforts in Puerto Rico, which is facing a worsening humanitarian crisis following Hurricane Maria", McCain wrote on Tuesday.
"We do not lack USA -flagged vessel capacity to move commodities to Puerto Rico", Homeland Security said.
"The limitation is going to be port capacity to offload and transit, not vessel availability", Moore said. When President Donald Trump was asked about the waiver Wednesday, he explicitly admitted there was resistance to the move because of the shipping industry's interests. The official said a request from a member of Congress is not the usual pathway from which it gets waiver requests.
The DHS also said Tuesday that officials thought waiving the Jones Act would be unnecessary.
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