“Further, both fleets call in Jacksonville, Fla., which
has triggered investment there in terminals, liquefac-
tion plants and other infrastructure needed to supply
LNG fuel to these fleets,” Roberts said during the
hearing. “Major regulatory and public education efforts
are under way in tandem with these investments. The
significance of this investment cannot be overstated.”
Puerto Rico is a 3,500-square-mile country with a
population of 3. 5 million. As a U.S. territory, the island
nation is an integral part of the U.S. domestic liner
industry, which refers to the oceangoing container
shipping business primarily in the non-contiguous
domestic trades between the U.S. mainland and Puerto
Rico, Hawaii, Alaska and Guam.
Carriers in these markets are known as Jones Act
shippers, referring to the requirement that all cargo
shipped between U.S. domestic ports be carried on
vessels that are built, owned, crewed and registered in
the United States. Since last fall, the legislative activity
around Puerto Rico’s economy has given rise to talks of
suspending Jones Act requirements there.
“A few have taken this legislative activity as an
opportunity to urge that a Jones Act exemption for
Puerto Rico be included in the package,” Roberts testi-
fied. “They have offered no credible proof that such a
change would help Puerto Rico, and we are confident
it would do more harm than good both for Puerto Rico
and for the country generally.
“Such a change would put at risk the reliable, efficient service the island currently receives, as well as
hundreds of private-sector jobs on the island, with no
offsetting gains. It would also send a chilling message
that would bring further investment in vessels built in
U.S. shipyards to a standstill,” he said.
Many in the maritime community believe that the
Jones Act — officially the Merchant Marine Act of 1920
— is a small part of a much larger economic problem in
Puerto Rico, and that changes to the law will have little effect in terms of helping the island nation recover
from its financial crisis, said James E. Caponiti, president of the American Maritime Congress. Furthermore,
suspending the Jones Act would impact any new U.S.
shipbuilding investments for the Puerto Rico trade that
the U.S. government has underwritten with Title XI
grants through the Maritime Administration’s Federal
Ship Financing Program.
“If you undo the Jones Act in Puerto Rico, who
knows what you do to Puerto Rico. It is an underpinning of their commerce, and you might think you are
freeing their hands, but look at what you lose,” Caponiti
told Seapower. “The economic problems that they are
having in Puerto Rico — the Jones Act is a small piece
37 WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / JUNE 2016
TOTE Maritime has deployed two new ships in the Puerto Rico trade that are the first liquefied natural gas-powered
containerships in the world. The first, Isla Bella, is shown here during sea trials in August near the General Dynamics
NASSCO shipyard in San Diego. The Jones Act-qualified ships will operate between Jacksonville, Fla., and San Juan.