Feds issue ‘targeted’ Jones Act waiver for ship bringing fuel to Puerto Rico

The following is a news release issued by the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii on Sept. 28, 2022. Note: The original version incorrectly stated the GH Parks is a Liberian-flagged vessel. 

Keli‘i Akina, Grassroot Institute of Hawaii president, welcomes the waiver but said it should be broadened to all ships and extended for a full year

HONOLULU, Sept. 28, 2022 >> Hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico will receive a temporary waiver from the 1920 federal maritime law known as the Jones Act, according to U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“In response to urgent and immediate needs of the Puerto Rican people in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, I have approved a temporary and targeted Jones Act waiver to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have sufficient diesel to run generators needed for electricity and the functioning critical facilities as they recover from Hurricane Fiona,” Mayorkas stated earlier today.[1]

The waiver will apply to the GH Parks, a Marshall Islands-flagged tanker carrying 300,000 barrels of diesel fuel from Texas. The GH Parks requested the waiver on Sunday and had been waiting off Puerto Rico’s southern coast for a response.[2]

Keli’i Akina, president and CEO of the Grassroot Institute, which yesterday petitioned President Joe Biden for a more general waiver,[3] welcomed the announcement, but said Mayorkas’ order should be broadened and extended.

“We are glad to hear that the Biden administration will allow critical fuel supplies on the GH Parks to reach the residents of Puerto Rico,” Akina said, “but the waiver should be broadened to apply to all ships and extended for at least a full year to be sufficiently effective.”

Akina said the limited waiver “recognizes that the Jones Act imposes significant economic costs on the island’s residents, especially during times of crisis, such as now with Hurricane Fiona and back in 2017 when the territory was slammed by Hurricane Maria.”

He said ideally, the exemption should be permanent, to eliminate potentially harmful delays in future relief efforts — as well as to just help improve the quality of life for Puerto Ricans under normal circumstances.

In his letter to the president yesterday, Akina said, “The people of Puerto Rico will need every spare dollar as they get back on their feet, and a one-year Jones Act waiver would help mitigate the high costs of rebuilding,”[4]

Mayorkas’ decision to exempt the GH Parks from the Jones Act follows a week of media and political outrage over the Biden administration’s reluctance to waive the 102-year-old law, which restricts shipments between U.S. ports to only ships that are U.S. built and flagged, and mostly owned and crewed by Americans.

The editorial boards of The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Examiner all called for reform,[5] as did many members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez.[6]

Earlier this week, Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi wrote Biden a letter asking that the GH Parks be allowed to dock. Pierluisi stated that “A shortage of diesel and other fuel products will have an impact on our ability to provide essential services to citizens in Puerto Rico, thus affecting public health, security and continuity of government functions.”[7]

Hawaii’s congressional delegation has not been silent on this matter, either.

“I’m in contact with the White House, and I’m hopeful that they’ll have this [waiver situation] resolved very, very shortly,” Hawaii’s own U.S. Sen. Brian Schatz told media outlet Latino Rebels earlier today.[8]

Akina repeated that he welcomes Mayorkas’ “temporary and targeted” waiver for the GH Parks.

“The Department of Homeland Security made a good call in granting this waiver,” Akina said. “Let’s hope members of Congress look to reform the Jones Act in more meaningful ways in the coming months, to ameliorate the suffering in Puerto Rico and the high costs the law imposes on other coastal areas.”

For more information or to arrange an interview with Akina, please contact Mark Coleman at 808-386-9047 or info@grassrootinstitute.org.
[1] “Statement by Secretary Mayorkas on the Approval of a Jones Act Waiver for Puerto Rico,” U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Sept. 28, 2022.

[2] David Begnaud and Emily Mae Czachor, “Puerto Rico governor calls on U.S. to allow ships carrying vital diesel fuel to dock at hurricane-ravaged island,” CBS News, Sept. 26, 2022.

[3] Keli’i Akina, “Letter to President Biden: Grant Jones Act waiver to Puerto Rico,” Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, Sept. 27, 2022.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Kill the Jones Act,” The Boston Globe, Sept. 24, 2022; “Puerto Rico’s membership in the U.S. should come with free shipping,” The Washington Post, Sept. 26, 2022; “The Jones Act Strands Hurricane Aid in Puerto Rico,” The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 27, 2022; “Save Puerto Rico and repeal the Jones Act now,” Washington Examiner, Sept. 27, 2022.

[6 Tweet from Sen. Marco Rubio, Sept. 26, 2022; Letter from U.S. Rep Nydia Velásquez, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, et al., Sept. 22, 2022.

[7] Syra Ortiz-Blanes and Alex Roarty, “In letter to Biden, Puerto Rico governor requests Jones Act waiver to ease fuel shortage,” Miami Herald, Sept. 27, 2022.

[8] Carlos Edill Berríos Polanco, “Puerto Rico, US Leaders Seek Jones Act Waiver For Puerto Rico After Fiona,” Latino Rebels, Sept. 28, 2022.

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