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Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Crowley’s Roberts Outlines Support for Puerto Rico, Jones Act

April 29, 2016

Michael Roberts, Crowley's senior vice president and general counsel (Photo: Crowley)

Michael Roberts, Crowley's senior vice president and general counsel (Photo: Crowley)

As U.S. lawmakers address means to stabilize Puerto Rico’s economy, Crowley Maritime Corporation’s senior vice president and general counsel, Michael Roberts, was called upon to offer recommendations for supporting the island’s economy and strengthening the U.S. domestic shipping industry.

In a written and oral testimony provided last week before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security, Roberts outlined areas of support for Puerto Rico and the Jones Act.

“In general, the carriers and other mainland businesses interested in Puerto Rico have supported a package that includes an appropriate mechanism to restructure bond debt, to create a control board with limited powers help the Puerto Rican government work through its financial challenges, and other measures,” Roberts said. “In Crowley’s case, we took this unusual step based on our 60 years of commitment to the island, recognition that the Puerto Rican economy is in rough shape, and our belief that Congress has a critical role to play in righting the ship.”

Roped into the debate on stabilizing Puerto Rico’s economy has been the discussion of possibly exempting Puerto Rico trade from the Jones Act. “A few have taken this legislative activity as an opportunity to urge that a Jones Act exemption for Puerto Rico be included in the package,” Roberts said. “They have offered no credible proof that such a change would help Puerto Rico, and we are confident it would do more harm than good both for Puerto Rico and for the country generally.”

According to Roberts, “Such a change would put at risk the reliable, efficient service the Island currently receives, as well as hundreds of private sector jobs on the island, with no offsetting gains. It would also send a chilling message that would bring further investment in vessels built in U.S. shipyards to a standstill.”

Crowley, who employs more than 250 in Puerto Rico and has served the market since 1954, said it maintains its commitment to the island, with more than $500 million in new terminal, pier and vessel construction underway, including two new combination container and Roll-On/Roll-Off (ConRo) ships to be powered by liquefied natural gas (LNG) scheduled for delivery in 2017 and 2018.

“The significance of this investment cannot be overstated,” Roberts said. “American carriers have triggered the construction in U.S. shipyards, and deployment in U.S. domestic service, of vessels that may prove to be prototypes of the world shipping fleet as it begins to transition to extremely low-emissions propulsion. These vessels bring significant environmental benefits to Puerto Rico, where air quality is a major concern. They also establish a substantial demand platform that enables the full development of American natural gas for use in transportation and other businesses in the Southeast and throughout the country. It is a game changer.”

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