On September 28, 2017, in recognition of the severe impacts on Puerto Rico from Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke approved a waiver of The Jones Act (46 U.S.C. § 55102).

The Jones Act generally prohibits the transportation of cargo between points in the US, either directly or via a foreign port, or for any part of the transportation, in any vessel other than a vessel that has a coastwise endorsement (eg, a vessel that is built in and owned by persons who are citizens of the United States).[1] The prohibition of the Jones Act can be waived only in the interest of national defense. Under 46 U.S.C. § 501(a), the Secretary of Defense may request the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security to waive the Jones Act to the extent the Secretary of Defense considers such a waiver necessary in the interest of national defense.

According to the DHS press release, the Secretary's decision today follows yesterday's request from Ricardo Rossello, the Governor of Puerto Rico, and the Secretary of Defense's subsequent determination that a waiver is in the interest of national defense.

The waiver will be in effect for 10 days after signature and covers all products being shipped to Puerto Rico. Therefore, if the agency follows the practice outlined in its previous FAQs covering the protocol for the last two waivers issued for petroleum products to be delivered for relief assistance in response to Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, under today's waiver, the loading of the covered cargo to the transporting vessel must have commenced on or before no later than 11:59 p.m. on October 8 - ten days from September 28.

As quoted in the press release, the Secretary stated: "This waiver will ensure that over the next ten days, all options are available to move and distribute goods to the people of Puerto Rico. It is intended to ensure we have enough fuel and commodities to support lifesaving efforts, respond to the storm, and restore critical services and critical infrastructure operations in the wake of these devastating storms."

See the DHS waiver.