The Jones Act hindered recovery efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria by preventing ships from unloading supplies intended for much-needed relief efforts. An editorial in the Wall Street Journal published October 26 highlighted the trade protectionism and price gouging that occurred in the wake of the hurricane.
Emeritus professor Thomas Grennes added further evidence to this claim:
“Your editorial “Puerto Rico’s Backlog” (Oct. 27) states that Puerto Ricans face the oligopoly power of Jones Act ships, which makes buyers of products from the mainland vulnerable to conspiracies to raise transportation prices. This issue isn’t merely hypothetical. In 2012, three Jones Act suppliers, including Crowley Maritime Corp., pleaded guilty to fixing prices in their Puerto Rican trade, and six of their executives went to prison. Permanently excluding Puerto Rico from the Jones Act would be a powerful antitrust weapon.”
The Jones Act remains a powerful and controversial piece of legislation that will likely have impacts on disaster recovery efforts not only in Puerto Rico but also in future aid operations.