The decision to waive the Jones Act for a tanker offshore hurricane-stricken Puerto Rico has earned condemnations from US domestic maritime groups.
The American Maritime Partnership (AMP) — an industry group representing US shipowners, shipyards and other shipping companies — called the decision to send the 50,000-dwt GH Parks (built 2009) to Puerto Rico following Hurricane Fiona a “stunt” by BP intended to price-gouge islanders.
“Granting of this waiver rewards calculated and predatory behaviour that undermines a dedicated American supply chain for Puerto Rico, and it is a harmful precedent that invites similar cynical stunts by foreign oil traders,” said partnership president Ku’uhaku Park.
“This was a public rush to judgment fueled by hearsay and it weakens the nation and hurts American workers and the administration should never repeat it.”
The Jones Act is a century-old law that requires US-flag ships that are built at domestic yards and controlled by American companies to carry cargoes between points inside the country. The GH Parks is linked to a London asset manager and is flagged in the Marshall Islands, where its registered owner is incorporated.
The law can be waived in case of a national emergency and waivers tend to be rare and are often controversial in the US shipping industry.
The waiver, issued on Wednesday, was couched as being “temporary and targeted” by US government officials intended to meet the needs of Puerto Ricans struggling following the storm.
But AMP said there was no need. It cited the US Coast Guard, which told CBS News that there was an adequate supply of diesel on the island, and Puerto Rico resident commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez Colon, who said federal authorities told her there was plentiful supply.
The group said the GH Parks was diverted to the island specifically so BP could sell the fuel at a premium.
BP told TradeWinds it requested the waiver on 20 September, two days after the storm made landfall on the island, and that it has chartered another, Jones Act-compliant vessel to bring fuel to Puerto Rico.
“We are grateful to the Biden administration for taking this action and will deliver the barrels into Puerto Rico as quickly and safely as possible,” the oil major said.
Puerto Rico was battered by Hurricane Fiona, with as much as 32 inches of rain soaking the island over the weekend, causing massive flooding and leaving a fifth of the island's residents and key infrastructure without electricity.
It had previously been battered by Hurricane Maria in 2017, a storm that killed thousands.
A waiver was issued in its wake.
AMP said Puerto Rico continues receiving fuel, with Puerto Rico Ports Authority director Jose Piza telling the media the island received 600,000 barrels of fuel in recent days.
AMP said both foreign-flagged and US-flagged ships have provided the island fuel, including a Crowley articulated tug barge shipping 145,000 barrels of diesel to the southern port of Guayanilla.
Any issues getting that fuel to the rest of the island, the partnership said, was down to land-side problems.
“American maritime is dedicated to Puerto Rico and while foreign oil traders seek to line their pockets at the expense of the Puerto Rican people, we will always be committed to our fellow citizens, including our own employees and their families, in Puerto Rico,” Park said.