Jones Act suspended in Puerto Rico after devastation of Hurricane Fiona

Evan Couch and Zaire Eltayeb

Hurricane Fiona swept through Puerto Rico as a Category 1 storm on Sep. 18 and caused an immense amount of damage to the island. The island was hit with over two feet of rain. 

According to, the majority of buildings were completely destroyed, and over 120,000 are still left without electricity and basic supplies such as water.

The Department of Homeland Security is suspending the Jones Act as of Wednesday, Sep. 28 in an effort to help people on the island receive supplies. According to, this will allow the Marshall-Island flagged ship, which is carrying diesel fuel, to dock near the port of Ponce.

According to Puerto Rico Governor, Pedro Pierluisi, the suspension of the Jones Act is a “temporary waiver” in order to get fuel to the island to aid the generation of power. According to, the ship carrying the fuel has been sitting idle off the port of Ponce since Sep. 25, as it waited for permission to dock and unload fuel. 

According to,The Jones Act implemented in 1917 and officially called the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, allows trade to be conducted by only allowing exports from America to be transported to Puerto Rico on an American ship with American handlers.  

Due to the hardships associated with this Act, President Joe Biden’s Administration allowed for the non-American ship to supply fuel to the residents of Puerto Rico during this time. 

Democratic House Representative Nydia Velazquez said it is a serious situation and more needs to be done. 

“This is a life and death situation,” said Velazquez via “I encourage the Administration to take further steps to ensure that the people of Puerto Rico can fully recover from Hurricane Fiona.” 

Velazquez, along with Senator Mike Lee, introduced the Puerto Rico Recovery Act. According to a press release on, the bill requires the Department of Homeland Security to waive the Jones Act for vessels that demonstrate their intention to help in the disaster relief of Puerto Rico.

“Too many times, the Jones Act has plagued recovery efforts for certain areas of the United States that have been devastated by natural disasters,” said Velázquez. “After Hurricane Maria, we saw the consequences the Jones Act had on Puerto Rico, which is why I introduced a bill that would put a 5-year moratorium on it.”