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Jones Act isn’t the problem in Puerto Rico

Opportunists who’ve long opposed law are spreading lies for selfish reasons


The following open letter is from Gunnar Lundeberg, President/Secretary-Treasurer of the Sailors’ Union of the Pacific, an affiliate of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO:

(Oct. 3, 2017) — The anti-American worker rats who shill for foreign interests, swarm out of the sewers every time a natural disaster in the United States requires the assistance of U.S.-flag shipping.

File photo of the San Juan Port in Puerto Rico.

In this instance, it is the devastation and humanitarian crisis caused by Hurricane Maria to Puerto Rico.

The usual suspects on the right (John McCain, the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, the Koch Brothers) have now been joined by some on the left ( and a few House Democrats) in blaming the Jones Act for slowing relief efforts.

Nothing could be farther from the truth.

The Jones Act (Merchant Marine Act of 1920) requires that all goods transported between U.S. ports be carried on U.S.-flag vessels, built in the United States, owned by U.S. citizens and crewed by U.S. citizens.

Contrary to misinformation spread in the media, the current crisis in Puerto Rico, has nothing to do with the Jones Act. There is no shortage of U.S.-flag tonnage available to serve the island. The emergency in Puerto Rico is caused by lack of the ability to distribute critical supplies, food, medicine, water and fuel to local communities from the ports where these supplies are located.

The facts are as follows:

1. The Jones Act does not prohibit foreign vessels from transporting supplies to Puerto Rico. In fact, nearly two-thirds of the vessels calling in Puerto Rico are foreign flag and nearly all of the fuel transported to Puerto Rico is delivered aboard foreign-flag vessels.

2. Maritime labor does not oppose Jones Act waivers in emergencies when there have not been enough U.S.-flag ships available to transport cargo between U.S. ports. There are currently 15 U.S.-flag ships and U.S.-flag oceangoing tug/barge combinations regularly serving Puerto Rico. These vessels alone are now bringing in more supplies than can be distributed ashore. Other U.S. flag commercial vessels are available and over 60 government-owned reserve cargo vessels that can be called into action and fully operational with 72 hours.

3. If a shortage of available U.S.-flag shipping hinders relief efforts in the future, maritime labor will support a temporary Jones Act waiver.

4. Spreading falsehoods about the Jones Act is harmful to the economic and military security of the United States. The Jones Act facilitates regular, reliable shipping services between the Island and other U.S. ports and at the same time promotes good paying Union jobs for Puerto Ricans and other Americans, while safeguarding the United States shipbuilding industry and merchant marine in times of peace and war.

The Jones Act is not impeding relief efforts in Puerto Rico. It is not forcing aid to be turned away, nor is it slowing down efforts to get relief supplies to the people who need them.

We urge Congress, the media, and any other interested party to exercise due diligence in fact finding, and beware of misinformation and false claims being propagated by anti-Jones Act agitators who are attempting to hijack this crisis to further their agendas. While that goes on in a time of crisis the American merchant marine has once more risen to the occasion to get the job done.

In solidarity with the People of Puerto Rico,

Gunnar Lundeberg
President/Secretary-Treasurer, Sailors’ Union of the Pacific

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