In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many have called upon President Trump to issue a Jones Act waiver. President Trump already approved a Jones Act waiver for the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard. In the early morning of September 28, 2017, President Trump directed another waiver to extend to Puerto Rico. Most news outlets have picked sides, launching criticism this way or that. Let us examine what has actually happened and how it affects us.
What Does the Jones Act Actually Do?
The Jones Act does many things. It protects our maritime workers by requiring American vessels to meet certain safety standards. The Jones Act also provides a recovery for a seaman’s injury or death caused by the negligence of his or her employer. It also requires that shipping to and from United States ports use United States vessels and crews.
Why Do We Waive It In Times of Natural Disaster?
Natural disasters cause a major disruption to normal shipping lanes. Basic necessities like fuel, food, water and medicine sometimes cannot reach those that need them the most. Consequently, our government often waives the portion of the Jones Act that mandates intra-country transport vessels be U.S. flagged and manned. This allows aid to flow freely from as many potential sources as possible, via as many methods as possible. For example, the waiver allows a Colombian flagged shipping vessel to move food from New York to Puerto Rico.
What About A Seaman Injured During A Jones Act Waiver Period?
Injured maritime workers need not worry about losing the important protections afforded them by the Jones Act. The Department of Homeland Security only waives the portion of the Jones Act that requires U.S. vessels ship to and from U.S. ports. You can read the actual text of the waiver on the Department of Homeland Security website. Injured maritime workers still have rights and protections under the Jones Act during waiver period. However, if you have questions about your options following a maritime injury, you should speak with the experienced maritime lawyers of The Lambert Firm.