Maritime shipping company Crowley recently added its name to a long list of private-sector companies that have thrown their support behind HR 870, known as the Puerto Rico Chapter 9 Uniformity Act of 2015, which seeks to extend bankruptcy protection to the island’s public instrumentalities.
In a letter sent to several Congressional lawmakers, Michael Roberts, senior vice president and general counsel for the Jacksonville-based ocean transportation provider, said Puerto Rico needs a legal mechanism to enable an orderly process to restructure portions of its $73 billion public debt.
“Chapter 9 of the Bankruptcy Code provides that mechanism. The alternative is continued uncertainty and the resulting chilling effect on business activity and growth,” he said in the letter dated July 4, but released publicly on Monday.
The letter is addressed to Sen. Bob Goodlatte, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and Sen. John Conyers, ranking member of the same Congressional group in charge of reviewing the measure submitted in February by Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi.
The bill was discussed in a public hearing that same month, when more than a dozen private sector organizations from the island expressed their support.
“For 60 years, Crowley has been a leading provider of ocean transportation and logistics services in interstate commerce between the U.S. mainland and Puerto Rico,” Robert said in the letter also sent to Sen. Tom Marino and Hank Johnson, chairman and ranking member, respectively of the Subcommittee on Regulatory Reform, Commercial and Antitrust Law.
“The company is now in the midst of a major capital investment, including transformative improvements to its San Juan marine terminal, and new LNG-powered container/ro-ro vessels. These investments help insure that the American citizens of Puerto Rico will continue to receive outstanding and cost-effective marine transportation services for another generation,” he said.
HR 870 has drawn bipartisan support from Puerto Rico, but also stiff opposition from stateside interest groups, which have equated granting the island Chapter 9 inclusion to a bailout.