Jones Act Waiver for Puerto Rico

With the response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico lagging badly behind that seen in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and after growing public calls for action, the U.S. finally waived the Jones Act for a time.  This will allow a wider range of ships to transit directly between ports in the U.S. and the Caribbean island territory. The Jones Act is an example of "cabotage law," meaning regulation of trade between domestic ports. Laws like it exist in most countries and the intent originally was to protect fleets of merchant marine ships and personnel from competition from other countries. The fear was that if other countries could push domestic ship building out of business and reduce the number of native sailors. In the event of a war such a weakness could have been disastrous for most countries dependent on trade over water.

The law forces trade (passenger travel or goods and services) traveling from one U.S. port to another must be built in the U.S., crewed by Americans, and owned by Americans. The Passenger Vessel Services Act of 1920 is very similar and applies to passenger vessels specifically. The PVSA however states that no ship failing any of the three mandates in the Jones Act can pick passengers up in one U.S. port, then debark them at a different U.S. port without visiting a second country first. In this case the Jones Act prevents fleets of ships that fail any of the three mandates to travel directly from American ports to Puerto Rico. This had the effect of crippling shipments of needed supplies and materials needed to aid hurricane recover efforts. Within the cruise industry and beyond there is strong sentiment to update and change the Jones Act and the PVSA to reflect modern times. Such would allow for radical growth in cruises that travel entire itineraries of U.S. and Canadian ports, boost tourism in said ports and certainly create new jobs. However the Jones Act and PVSA have staggeringly well funded, determined and organized union and business interests who have successfully defended the laws for nearly a hundred years. Some think the hurricanes might finally lead to some changes but there seems little momentum given the current political climate in the U.S.

Hurricane Irma Comes to Claim Your Soul! (Or just cruise plans.)

Hurricane Irma is picking up speed and power.  Per our updated image here, thanks to the National Weather Service's National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to be near or ashore in the Florida Keys and possibly the greater Miami area.  Major cruise lines are already canceling cruises ahead of time and sending ships to alternate ports ahead of time.  If you are cruising within the next two weeks you should contact your travel agent or cruise line today.

 

Hurricane Irma Notes

Hurricane Irma caused wide-spread damage on St. Maarten/Saint Marten.  St. Thomas is only starting to report damages.  Having said that, despite the hefty winds and rain the last 30 years of building to modern standards appears to have helped prevent swaths of business' and homes from being annihilated entirely.  Evacuation orders for areas throughout Florida have lead to early closing of ports, airports and even some cruise lines corporate headquarters.  Irma is expected to reach southern Florida by Sunday afternoon and will proceed north over the next day.  Virtually all cruises leaving from Florida are already canceled starting with those departing Thursday.  Expect to see cruises up the eastern coast of the U.S. cancel soon.

 The Red Cross has updated their hurricane relief page for those that wish to help.  

Hurricane Irma Notes - Thursday P.M.

Hurricane Irma caused wide-spread damage on St. Maarten/Saint Marten.  The French side of the island appears to have taken the brunt of the damage.  St. Thomas is reporting heavy damage and many buildings that simply failed against 185 mile an hour winds.  All cruises leaving from Florida are now canceled.  Expect to see cruises up the eastern coast of the U.S. cancel soon.  Cancelation policy varies but most lines are refunding 100% of the cruises canceled with some credit toward an additional future cruise.  Most ships are seeking refuge in the Western Caribbean.  Most of Florida is at risk of wind and rain damage and many roads north are clogged.

 The Red Cross hurricane relief page for those that wish to help.  

Hurricane Irma Notes - Saturday

Most of Florida is at risk of wind and rain damage and many roads north are clogged still.  The hurricane is in a state of decline but could become stronger as it crosses open water approachign the Florida Keys.  There is a great deal of uncertainty in regards to where the path of Irma may go.  There isn't any news specific to cruise cancelations to relate.  Those that will be, have.  The ETA of ports reopening is harder to guess and when the first cruises will again start to flow out of Florida isn't something that can be predicted at the moment.  Damage to the islands and ports along the leeward islands is hard to come by.  Media sources and political types are using the most inflated terms possible, either to position for funding and support or to ganer ratings and clicks online.  Without question there were lives lost, lives ruined and damage across the scale that comes with such storms.  However how dire the collective impact is something yet to be determined.  Most ports throughout the Caribbean likely will be open and operational within 90 days.  Business' and excursions within many ports will be a case-by-case issue depending on the damages suffered.

 The Red Cross hurricane relief page for those that wish to help.  

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