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    Tuesday, November 21, 2017-4:36:40A.M.

     

     

     

     

     

Guam business, political leaders push for lifting of Jones Act

HAGÅTÑA (The Guam Daily Post) — Business and political leaders on island are saying that now may be the best time for Guam to push for exemption from the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, or the Jones Act, after President Trump suspended the Jones Act for Puerto Rico to facilitate hurricane aid shipments bound for the storm-battered commonwealth.

Bobby Shringi, chairman of the board for the Guam Chamber of Commerce, said the recent shipping issues with Puerto Rico and the lifting of the Jones Act open the door for Guam to pursue exemptions for the marine law, which was enacted nearly a century ago.

“However, it’s more than the adverse impacts during times of disasters, as our residents pay dearly at the registers because of the Jones Act on a daily basis. With the recent decision of Delta Airlines to end services on Guam, what is truly needed are changes towards cabotage laws in general,” he said.

Guam’s location makes these federal mandates challenging for residents, Shringi said.

For his part, Sen. Wil Castro said, “I’m grateful that there is a U.S. president with the political fortitude to do something about the Jones Act, granted it is conditional. It is in response to a dire situation there (Puerto Rico).”

Castro said he hopes the conditional exemption granted to Puerto Rico would allow Guam to look at the potential impact of the lifting of the statute.

“I hope that this serves as a case study, where we may be in a better position to see how the natural market can respond to the need to transport/transship when that restriction is lifted,” he said.

The law was first fashioned in 1920, Castro said. He added, “It was designed to protect.... It was after the war and they didn’t have the natural market to be able to transship goods or transport people, and they were concerned. There was an issue of national security and national transportation.”

According to Castro, the ultimate validation comes after the lifting of the Jones Act and the cabotage laws that also affect Guam.

“If the restrictions in air transshipment/transportation, as they are with open ocean transshipment/transportation, is lifted, the proof is going to be in how the natural market responds. Does it mean lower airfares? Does it mean lower transshipment costs?” Castro said.

Sen. Dennis Rodriguez said to reach a solution to the Jones Act restrictions, it is important to get the attention of the president.

“The Jones Act has been hurting us for so long. We have everyday struggles because of the Jones Act — the high cost of food, of everything. We have to bring everything in,” Rodriguez said.

The Jones Act requires that all goods shipped from the U.S. mainland to Guam and other noncontiguous jurisdictions be transported in U.S. carriers manned by U.S. crews.

Noncontiguous areas affected by the law include Guam, Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. Other U.S. jurisdictions such as American Samoa, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands are fully exempted from the restrictions.

However, the CNMI still pays full Jones Act freight rates despite the exemption because U.S. goods come from the mainland via Hawaii and Guam.