The Biden administration on Wednesday approved a temporary waiver to Jones Act shipping restrictions to allow a tanker to deliver diesel fuel to Puerto Rico needed to run generators following the devastation caused by Hurricane Fiona. .
The waiver was granted after criticism from the governor of Puerto Rico and other officials as the BP vessel sat off the coast of the island unable to unload 300,000 barrels of diesel fuel due to the law that limits U.S. domestic sea shipments to U.S.-flagged vessels. The BP ship, which picked up its cargo of fuel in Texas, flies the flag of the Marshall Islands.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a statement that the administration granted the “temporary and targeted” waiver to “ensure that the people of Puerto Rico have enough diesel to run necessary generators. to power and the operation of critical facilities as they recover from Hurricane Fiona.”
Several members of Congress, led by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D, NY) had asked Mr. Mayorkas to grant a one-year waiver to expedite the flow of relief goods to Puerto Rico during his recapture of Fiona, which hit the island on September 18.
BP said in a statement that it originally submitted a Jones Act waiver request to US authorities on September 20 to allow a ship “to be diverted from its original destination to Puerto Rico to assist in relief efforts. after the hurricane”.
“We are grateful to the Biden administration for taking this action and will deliver the barrels to Puerto Rico as quickly and safely as possible,” the company said.
The outcry over the tanker marks the latest storm sparked by a 1920 law requiring ships performing domestic operations to be built in the United States and operated by American companies with American crews. The law is intended to preserve U.S. maritime operations as a national security safeguard for the armed forces.
Critics say the law drives up shipping prices and creates a barrier to fast services after natural disasters and other times of need.
The American Maritime Partnership, a coalition of American shipping companies that support the Jones Act, said in a statement that the criticism of the BP vessel was a “stunt by a foreign oil company” that was intended to “trigger a public and political rush to judgement.”
President Trump granted a Jones Act waiver in 2017 following Hurricane Maria, a Category 4 storm that tore through Puerto Rico, leaving much of the island’s infrastructure in ruins.
Mayorkas said he made the decision to grant the waiver in consultation with the Departments of Transportation, Energy and Defense, and with input from Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi.
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