WASHINGTON — The Trump administration announced it will waive federal restrictions on foreign ships’ transportation of cargo to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter Thursday that President Donald Trump has “authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico.” She said Trump is responding to a request from the governor, and it “will go into effect immediately.”
The announcement came more than a week after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, as most of the U.S. territory is still without power with little access to fuel and other supplies. Republicans and Democrats had pushed Trump to waive the Jones Act, a little-known federal law that prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports. Advocates of the move said it could get desperately needed supplies delivered to the island more quickly and at less cost.
The Trump administration had previously said a waiver was not needed, because there were enough U.S.-flagged ships available to ferry goods to Puerto Rico. Trump told reporters Wednesday that his administration was looking at it, but he said, “We have a lot of shippers and a lot of people and a lot of people that work in the shipping industry that don’t want the Jones Act lifted.”
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke waived the law earlier this month to help ease fuel shortages in the Southeast following hurricanes Harvey and Irma. That order included Puerto Rico, but expired last week shortly after Hurricane Maria struck.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello responded on Twitter Thursday: “Thank you @POTUS.”