SIU Supports Jones Act in Puerto Rico

 

March 2014

 

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When a long-awaited Government Accountability Office (GAO) study of the Jones Act’s effects on Puerto Rico was issued early last year, the results showed the law benefits the commonwealth or in some cases has an indeterminate impact.

 

Now, some of those who didn’t appreciate that conclusion are calling for a review of the study itself, along with a new report.

 

As a result, the SIU wasted no time once again standing up for the Jones Act; Port Agent Amancio Crespo testified Feb. 5 before the Puerto Rico Senate Committee on Civil Rights, Citizenship and Social Economy.

 

Crespo, speaking in opposition to a senate resolution, provided detailed information about how the Jones Act helps Puerto Rico’s economy and security. The law doesn’t cost the government a penny, and it is a source of good-paying jobs for thousands of Puerto Rico residents, he said.

 

The Jones Act stipulates that cargo moving from one U.S. port to another, including Puerto Rico, must move on vessels that are owned, flagged, built and crewed American. It helps pour billions of dollars into the U.S. economy every year while sustaining nearly 500,000 jobs.

 

In his testimony, Crespo said the SIU strongly opposes a second Jones Act study as well as a review of the original effort. The GAO report, he said, “represented a complete and thorough review of the impact of the Jones Act on Puerto Rico. There is no need for the Senate to engage in a duplicative review of either the Jones Act or to investigate whether this GAO report is sufficiently comprehensive. The purpose of the GAO is to engage in auditing, evaluation and investigations on behalf of the United States Congress in a fair and objective way….

 

“Regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with the GAO finding, the finding is a fair one based on significant research,” he continued. “This GAO report represented a comprehensive and in-depth review of the Jones Act and the impact of cabotage laws on Puerto Rico. GAO conducted dozens of interviews, both in the continental United States as well as in Puerto Rico, including interviews with supporters and opponents of the Jones Act. They also conducted economic analyses and met with both shippers and ship operators that call on Puerto Rico. Finally, the GAO auditing process took over a year, from October 2011 to February 2013. This process was thorough and its methodology was sound. S.R. 237, on the other hand, appears to be nothing more than a political attempt to discredit the GAO report. Section 3 of the Resolution requires that the two committees jointly render their report within 60 days of the enactment of the resolution. It took GAO 15 months to complete this report and another month to write it, yet the two Senate committees will undertake a ‘comprehensive analysis’ in 2 months? This is simply impossible.”

 

Speaking on behalf of the SIU, Crespo said that while opponents of the Jones Act may have been hoping for the GAO to provide them with more ammunition in their fight to repeal it, what the office reported is what the union and other Jones Act supporters have long been saying – namely that the Jones Act itself is fundamental to American maritime policy and that the law’s original goals of promoting military preparedness, the domestic merchant marine and domestic shipbuilding remain important today.

 

“Finally, the GAO report highlighted that the Jones Act ensures timely and reliable maritime service to Puerto Rico,” he added. “This is a critical but often overlooked benefit of the Jones Act.”

 

Moreover, Crespo stated that from the SIU’s perspective, the fundamental purpose of the Jones Act is jobs.

 

“The Jones Act ensures that jobs on ships coming to and from Puerto Rico to the mainland United States remain in the hands of American citizens,” he noted. “Here in Puerto Rico, unemployment is hovering at around 15.4 percent. Why would anyone support any policies that could result in that number moving even higher? A repeal of the Jones Act, or an exemption of Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, would put every Puerto Rican SIU member’s job at risk, and thousands more in the mainland United States.”

 

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