TRENTON – New Jersey State Senators Nellie Pou, Nilsa Cruz-Perez, and M. Teresa Ruiz yesterday introduced a resolution urging Congress and the Trump Administration to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from certain provisions of the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, known as the Jones Act.
“We are calling for the United States Congress to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from certain provisions of the Jones Act,” said Senator Pou (D- Bergen/Passaic). “Due to the Jones Act the people of Puerto Rico pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure. This law has been excessively burdensome to Puerto Rico, but is simply unacceptable in this time of disaster. We do not impose additional requirements for shipping to the Virgin Islands, so there is no reason to continue to impose them for Puerto Rico. This legislation would reduce shipping costs and the cost of goods and services for US consumers.”
“This act has long contributed to the high cost of living on the island, and is a great obstacle for the delivery of supplies for disaster relief and reconstruction efforts,” said Senator Cruz-Perez (Camden/Gloucester). “Puerto Rico has been struggling with debt and a catastrophic economy, brought in part by the Jones Act. This resolution urges the United States Congress and President Trump to exempt Puerto Rico from certain provisions of this law.”
“We must not only suspend the Jones Act temporarily for Puerto Rico, but permanently exempt the territory from its harmful provisions,” said Senator Ruiz (D-Essex) “No state in the nation is required to pay higher costs for commodities, yet this law imposes an onerous policy on Puerto Rico that substantially increases the price of goods. This harms the people of Puerto Rico and adversely affects the island’s economy. Exempting Puerto Rico from certain provisions of the Jones Act is not only necessary for its recovery from this disaster but also for the future economic growth of the island.”
A 2010 study at the University of Puerto Rico concluded that the island lost $537 million per year as a result of the Jones Act.
On September 28, 2017, President Donald Trump took action waiving the Jones act for 10 days for Puerto Rico at the request of its governor. Officially called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, the Jones Act stipulates that all vessels operating in U.S. waters be American-built, American-flagged, and 75 percent American-crewed.
Puerto Rico is a crucial territory for shipping companies because it houses 3.5 million residents who import 85 percent of their food, according to the Department of Agriculture, and eventually pay the cost of transportation. In contrast, the territories of Guam, US Virgin Islands, Northern Mariana Islands and American Samoa are totally or partially exempt from the restrictions of these shipping laws.