WASHINGTON Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Friday temporarily waived a maritime rule to allow foreign oil tankers coming from the Gulf of Mexico to enter U.S. Northeastern ports to help ease a fuel shortage in the areas hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy.
Napolitano waived - until Nov. 13 - the Jones Act, a law which prohibits international cargo ships from transporting oil and other cargo between U.S. ports.
"The administration's highest priority is ensuring the health and safety of those impacted by Hurricane Sandy and this waiver will remove a potential obstacle to bringing additional fuel to the storm damaged region," Napolitano said in a statement.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Craig Fugate said the secretary's decision to waive the rules is part of a broad effort to bring more fuel into New Jersey and New York as recovery efforts continue in the wake of the storm that knocked out power to parts of Manhattan and left in its wake devastating destruction across the New Jersey shoreline.
Area residents have been struggling to find gas stations with power. At stations with power, residents have faced miles-long lines and dwindling supplies.
It is unclear how many foreign tankers may bring oil to the Northeast or how much fuel could be brought in under the waiver.
The Jones Act became a point of contention during the 2010 Gulf oil spill as critics of the law suggested it prohibited foreign-flagged ships from heading to the area to help clean up the massive spill. Coast Guard and other officials at the time dismissed such criticisms.