On September 28, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it approved a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act with respect to the movement of merchandise between points in the United States and Puerto Rico. The waiver will be in effect for 10 days, commencing immediately, and will apply to all products being shipped to Puerto Rico. The waiver applies to covered merchandise laded on board a vessel within the 10-day period of the waiver and delivered by October 18, 2017. Carriers or shippers who conduct transportation pursuant to the waiver are recommended by DHS to provide notice of the vessel, dates of embarkation and disembarkation, type and quantity of cargo, and port of embarkation to JonesActWaiverRequest@cbp.dhs.gov.
The “Jones Act” is the common name used to refer to the set of federal statutes and regulations that, among other things, prohibit the transportation of merchandise between points in the United States by foreign-flag vessels. The Jones Act limits such transportation to U.S.-flag vessels built in the United States, owned and operated by U.S. citizens, and predominantly crewed by U.S. citizens. The Jones Act may be waived, though, if certain conditions are met by statute, including when “necessary in the interest of national defense.”
The DHS press release for the current waiver for Puerto Rico states that the waiver was granted following a determination by the Secretary of Defense that a waiver is in the interest of national defense. Under DHS’ current waiver for Puerto Rico, foreign-flag vessels will be allowed to bring aid to Puerto Rico from U.S. ports.
Earlier this month, DHS approved a separate waiver of the Jones Act following Hurricane Irma, but DHS’ prior waiver was limited to the movement of refined petroleum products, as well specific points of origin within the continental United States. The current waiver by DHS is broader with respect to the permitted movement of merchandise in that, according to DHS’ press release, the current waiver applies to all products being shipped to Puerto Rico, and not just refined petroleum products, and the current waiver is not limited to certain points of origin in the United States.
Remember that these legal principles may change and vary widely in their application to specific factual circumstances. You should consult with counsel about your individual circumstances. For further information regarding these issues, contact: