WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Department of Homeland Security said on Thursday it believes that extending its 10-day waiver on shipping limitations to Puerto Rico is not needed to support relief efforts for the hurricane-ravaged island.
Homeland issued the waiver of the Jones Act on Sept. 28, which runs out on Sunday, after a request by Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello and pressure from lawmakers, including Senator John McCain and U.S. Representative Nydia Velázquez.
The Jones Act limits shipping between U.S. coasts to U.S. flagged vessels and is backed by shipping and security interests. Opponents of the law say it adds costs to shipping of basic goods such as fuel, food and clothing to Puerto Rico and Hawaii that are passed on to consumers.
“We believe that extending the waiver is unnecessary to support the humanitarian relief efforts on the island,” said David Lapan, a Homeland spokesman.
Lapan said Homeland has not received any requests from commercial interests to waive the Jones Act and that the Department of Defense has not requested an extension of the waiver.
“There is an ample supply of Jones Act-qualified vessels to ensure that cargo is able to reach Puerto Rico,” Lapan said.
McCain and fellow Republican Senator Mike Lee introduced a bill on Sept. 28 to do away with the Jones Act on Puerto Rico for good, saying it harms the economy of the island. The U.S. Virgin Islands have been exempt from the Jones Act for decades.
Their bill faces an uphill battle amid wide support across the country from ship building companies and unions and companies that supply parts to vessels.
Lapan said Homeland is prepared to review any requests and respond if a non-Jones Act ship is needed for a national defense related needs for Puerto Rico.
Reporting by Timothy Gardner; Editing by Cynthia Osterman