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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Resident commissioner files legislation to exempt PR from air cargo cabotage regs


Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón


By THE STAR STAFF


Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón has introduced legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from air cargo rules that prevent foreign airlines from transporting cargo and passengers between two U.S. points.


In a statement Sunday, González Colón said the goal of the Puerto Rico Air Cargo Industry Empowerment Act (HR 375), is to turn Puerto Rico into an important air cargo hub center.


The legislation comes after a feasibility study yielded favorable results in the wake of the U.S. granting a waiver for a trial period and then extending it.


The resident commissioner noted that Alaska, which like Puerto Rico is an extraterritorial jurisdiction of the mainland United States, now competes with foreign cargo centers. Before 2003, most international flights flew over Alaskan airports, the same as is now happening in Puerto Rico. The Stevens Amendment, a federal statute that relaxed air cargo rules for Alaska, allowed airports in that state to compete at the same level as foreign airports.


“Puerto Rico has a strategic geographical position that also has the necessary airport infrastructure and should be the ideal candidate for an air cargo center that meets the requirements of national and international aviation,” González Colón said. “But the help of this regulatory incentive is needed to increase the relevance of Puerto Rico’s airports with competing foreign airports, as it did with Alaska in 2003. This regulation will help increase Puerto Rico’s air connectivity and will also facilitate airline operations and added value in free zones around the airport.”


She said the increased air cargo would benefit island airports and lead to positive effects on the Puerto Rican economy.


The expansion of air cargo operations could increase the use of underutilized airports and create opportunities for existing industries, such as the pharmaceutical, medical device and aerospace industries.


Puerto Rico and industry stakeholders had varying perspectives on the potential for the island expanding its air cargo operations. For example, some stakeholders said Puerto Rico’s geographical location may allow it to serve as a refueling and cargo distribution point, particularly for flights between Europe and Latin America, while others said the island may be too close to some Latin American destinations to serve that purpose.


In the past, much like petitions for changes to maritime shipping laws, efforts to have Puerto Rico exempted from air cabotage regulations have all but failed.

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