Taking its inspiration from the Beastie Boys’ 1994 song Sabotage, the ReasonTV/Remy video features a Canadian‐flagged tanker attempting to transport supplies from Florida to Puerto Rico in the wake of a hurricane. Blocking the tanker’s ability to offload its precious cargo, of course, is the Jones Act, the 1920 protectionist shipping law that restricts domestic waterborne transportation—such as between Florida and Puerto Rico—to vessels that are U.S.-flagged, U.S.-built, and mostly owned and crewed by American citizens. Tankers (or any other type of vessel) registered outside the United States—or American‐flagged but simply built in a foreign country—are only allowed to transport supplies to U.S. ports if their cargo was loaded abroad.
Although a brilliant bit of comedy, the video brings to mind the absurd situation that occurred last year following Hurricane Fiona when a foreign‐flagged tanker sailing from Texas to Amsterdam attempted to unload its cargo of diesel fuel—needed for generators in the midst of widespread power outages—in Puerto Rico. Initially unable to do so because of the Jones Act, the tanker finally received a waiver from the law following heavy pressure on the Biden administration.
That’s the good news.
Unfortunately, lobbyists from pro‐Jones Act groups responded by inserting language in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act that placed new restrictions on waivers of the 1920 law. Among the changes to the waiver process were a prohibition on waivers for vessels already carrying cargo—such as ReasonTV’s hypothetical Canadian‐flagged tanker laden with supplies from Florida—as well as a requirement that waivers be granted no earlier than 48 hours after a waiver request is published. Under these restrictions, the foreign‐flagged tanker that delivered diesel fuel to Puerto Rico last year would be ineligible for a Jones Act waiver.
ReasonTV and Remy have produced a deeply funny video, but the costs and consequences of this law are certainly no laughing matter.