Some things never change. For example, my good friend and OMSA President & CEO Aaron Smith told MarineNews magazine readers in September 2016 that, “I’m running out of ways of telling the Board of Directors and membership of the latest unprecedented attack against the Jones Act.” That reality is as true today as it was 12 months ago. This week’s assault, of course, comes in the choppy wake of Hurricane Maria, a powerful storm that walloped the island commonwealth a little over one week ago. The latest line from Jones Act opponents is that the Jones Act is solely responsible for the slow and painful recovery now underway there. Taking a page from Winston Churchill, these folks ‘never let a good crisis go to waste.’
Without discounting the horrible tragedy that the storm represents, it is also true that the Jones Act has absolutely nothing to do with whether the needed aid and supplies are getting inland to those who need this help the most. Nevertheless, President Trump this week waived Jones Act shipping restrictions for Puerto Rico at the request of the island's governor, Ricardo Rosselló and after an outcry from Congress about the scarcity of fuel, food and emergency supplies following Hurricane Maria. The move, for the time being, placates local residents and responders who feel that the U.S. flag operators are the cause of not only this crisis, but indeed, all of their problems. Ultimately, when recovery does come, it won’t have anything to do with who delivered the goods in the first place.
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