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DHS Considering Waiving Shipping Limits to Puerto Rico

  • VOA News

Volunteer Teresa Cruz places donated food items in a box for hurricane relief bound for Puerto Rico, Sept. 27, 2017, in the Little Havana area in Miami.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is still considering waiving shipping limits to Puerto Rico in the face of disaster relief.

Congress submitted a request to DHS on Monday asking that the Jones Act, which limits what can be shipped to Puerto Rico, be waived to more quickly deliver materials needed to rebuild the island devastated by Hurricane Maria last week.

Speaking to senators Wednesday, Elaine Duke, acting Secretary of Homeland Security, confirmed she received the request, but noted a request from Congress is not the usual pathway to waiving similar regulations.

Soldiers of Puerto Rico's national guard distribute relief items to people, after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept, 24, 2017.
Soldiers of Puerto Rico's national guard distribute relief items to people, after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept, 24, 2017.

The agency has in the past waived the rule to allow cheaper and more readily-available foreign vessels to supply goods to devastated areas. But DHS said Tuesday that waiving the act for Puerto Rico would not help the U.S. island territory due to damaged ports preventing ships from docking.

President Donald Trump also said suspending the Jones Act was being considered, but did not indicate whether or not he supported it.

"Well, we're thinking about that, but we have a lot of shippers and a lot of people … that work in the shipping industry that don't want the Jones Act lifted," he said Wednesday, adding the U.S. has "a lot of ships out there right now."

As of Tuesday, officials said, only 11 of 69 hospitals in Puerto Rico have fuel for their emergency generators.

The power grid throughout the island of 3.4 million people was damaged so badly by Hurricane Maria that officials have predicted it will take more than a few months to completely restore reliable electricity service.

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