Expiration of Trump’s temporary Puerto Rico Jones Act waiver validates Sen McCain’s permanent exemption bill.
by Michael Hansen, Hawaii Shippers Council, October 10, 2017
U.S. Senator John S. McCain III issued a press release on October 9, 2017, “Statement by Senator John McCain on expiration of Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico.”
It acknowledges the Trump Administration will not extend the temporary 10-day Jones Act waiver it granted to Puerto Rico. The waiver expired on Sunday, October 8, 2017.
As a result of the expiration of the temporary waiver and the administration’s unwillingness to extend it, Sen McCain stated his Senate Bill (S. 1894), which was introduced on September 28, 2017, and would permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, is needed even more.
Although Sen McCain’s press release refers to his series of Open Americas’ Waters Acts (the latest introduced in 2017) would repeal the Jones Act, those measures would actually eliminate the U.S. domestic ship build requirement on a nationwide basis across all trades.
The press release also mentions the 1998 legislation that Sen McCain sponsored authorizing administrative Jones Act waivers. However, it incorrectly refers to that waiver authorization for “certain foreign vessels to trade between U.S. ports.” That 1989 waiver authorization legislation applies only to foreign-built U.S.-flag small yachts and motor vessels to carry up to 12 passengers under what is known as the small vessel waiver program handled by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD).
The administrative process for ocean shipping Jones Act waivers is at 46 USC § 501, “Waiver of navigation and vessel-inspection laws,” enacted in 1950.
According to various maritime sources, no merchants or other shippers were able to take advantage of the temporary Jones Act waiver and ship merchandise from a domestic port to Puerto Rico on a foreign flag ship. The waiver period was simply too short for shippers to seek foreign flag resources.
The press release quote:
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) released the following statement after the Trump administration announced it would not extend the temporary Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico, which expired yesterday:
“Now that the temporary Jones Act waiver for Puerto Rico has expired, it is more important than ever for Congress to pass my bill to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from this archaic and burdensome law. Until we provide Puerto Rico with long-term relief, the Jones Act will continue to hinder much-needed efforts to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria.”
On September 28, 2017, Senators McCain and Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced legislation to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act.
A strong supporter of free trade, Senator McCain has been working for years to reform and repeal the archaic and burdensome Jones Act. In 1998, Senator McCain sponsored legislation that was signed into law to provide an administrative process for obtaining a Jones Act waiver for certain foreign vessels to trade between U.S. ports, eliminating the previous requirement for Congress to pass legislation for every waiver. In 2010, Senator McCain introduced legislation to fully repeal the Jones Act. He reintroduced the same piece of legislation in 2015 and again this July.