News & Politics

Thousands of Shipping Containers of Puerto Rico Aid Sitting on the Docks Waiting to be Delivered

(GDA via AP Images)

At least 10,000 containers of food, water, medicine and other critical supplies in hurricane relief for Puerto Rico are sitting on the docks and at airports waiting for truckers to deliver them to residents in need.

Apparently, only about 20 percent of truckers have reported back for work. And the island’s dilapidated infrastructure — in terrible shape before the hurricane — is preventing many trucks from getting through to the worst-hit areas.

CNN:

A mountain of food, water and other vital supplies has arrived in Puerto Rico’s main Port of San Juan.

But a shortage of truckers and the island’s devastated infrastructure are making it tough to move aid to where it’s needed most, officials say.

At least 10,000 containers of supplies — including food, water and medicine — were sitting Thursday at the San Juan port, said Jose Ayala, the Crowley shipping company’s vice pre

Part of the reason for the distribution backlog is that only 20% of truck drivers have reported back to work since Hurricane Maria swept through, according to a representative for Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

On top of that, a diesel fuel shortage and a tangle of blocked roads mean the distribution of supplies is extremely challenging. Even contacting drivers is a problem because cell towers are still down.

“When we say we that we don’t have truck drivers, we mean that we have not been able to contact them,” Rosselló said.

On Thursday the White House authorized a 10-day waiver of the Jones Act, a federal law that limits shipping to US ports by foreign vessels. Puerto Rico’s governor and other US officials had argued that a waiver would expedite supplies to the island.

But as Ayala has indicated, shipping companies already have aid and supplies either waiting at the port to be delivered — or held up at ports on the US mainland.

Of the 3,000 containers that Crowley alone had sent to San Juan’s port as of Wednesday, only 4% had been dispatched from there, Ayala said.

Ayala said the company can’t get enough truck drivers or trucks filled up with diesel to pick up supplies for distribution across the island.

“The problem has been with the logistics, the parts of the supply chain that move the cargo from our terminal to the shelves or to the tables of the people in Puerto Rico,” Ayala said Wednesday. “This hurricane was catastrophic.”

Meanwhile, Puerto Ricans are waiting hours in line to get gas, food and cash. Gas stations and supermarkets are rationing supplies, while banks are running low on cash.

This is exactly the same thing that happened in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Truck convoys carrying aid to New Orleans were backed up a hundred or more miles because of blocked roads, washed-out bridges, and other infrastructure problems. But the media reported the federal response as non-existent.

Sound familiar? Puerto Rico is even more difficult to help because, as Trump said to great ridicule, it’s an island. No truck convoys. Everything had to be delivered by air or ship.

Couple that with the Puerto Rican government’s failure to modernize or maintain roads and bridges and a natural disaster like Maria wreaks unnecessary havoc on the population.

How much is this the fault of Washington and how much is San Juan’s?  I suppose FEMA could have hired a couple thousand mainland truckers and sent them to Puerto Rico. And maybe the island governments should have made better preparations to clear the roads so help could arrive.

In fact, this is what a natural disaster looks like — a disaster. Trump is a fool to pick a fight with the mayor of San Juan — tweeting from a golf course, no less. Then again, if the mayor doesn’t know about all that aid sitting on the docks waiting to be delivered for lack of truckers and clear roads, she’s more incompetent than her highly politicized remarks would indicate.