Biden lifts US ship mandate to ease petrol shortages

17 May, 2021 12:00 AM printer

WASHINGTON: The Biden administration temporarily eased century-old US shipping requirements to allow foreign tankers to transport petrol and diesel to fuel-starved areas of the country following the Colonial Pipeline outage.

A waiver has been issued for a single company to the 101-year-old Jones Act, which stipulates goods transported between US ports be carried on ships built in the US and crewed by American workers, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in a Thursday statement, report agencies.

The move is designed to address fuel shortages spurred by the cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline, which shut down a major artery for petrol, diesel and jet fuel across the US East Coast.

Even with fuel shipments resuming from around 5pm Eastern time Wednesday, it’s unclear how long it will take for the network to return to normal.

“This waiver will enable the transport of additional gas and jet fuel between the Gulf Coast and East Coast ports to ease supply constraints,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement.

Mr Biden is also urging Americans “to just purchase what they need, and not hoard fuel, as supply is restored,” Ms Psaki said.

Petrol stations from Florida to Virginia have reported running dry after Colonial was forced to take systems offline on May 7, and pump prices soared above US$3 a gallon for the first time in six years.

While the government has temporarily lifted US ship requirements to combat fuel shortages after Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters, the issue is politically fraught.

The Jones Act is championed by some of the nation’s biggest shipbuilders and vessel operators, as well as their allies on Capitol Hill. It also has the backing of a key Biden constituency in organised labour, including the Seafarers International Union.