Crowley Maritime announced today that it has dispatched 18 company-owned and/or -operated Jones Act petroleum vessels to discharge gasoline and diesel at Florida ports in the nest few days.

Crowley said the mobilization is in response to fuel shortages caused by the evacuation of millions of Floridians ahead of Hurricane Irma. The Crowley vessels include the 330,000-bbl. Ohio and Florida, which were among the first tankers to bring fuel into the Port of Tampa on Tuesday, along with the 330,000-bbl. West Virginia in Port Everglades.

“We are extremely grateful for our customers’ response to this crisis, and for the dedication and sacrifice of the American men and women operating these vessels,” Rob Grune, Crowley’s senior vice president and general manager, petroleum services, said in a statement.  “Many of them live in Florida and have put their own needs on hold while responding to the urgent needs of others.”

Fuel is being discharged to all of the major terminals in Florida — Jacksonville, Port Canaveral and Fort Lauderdale in addition to Tampa. The vessels will be bringing a combined volume 2.75 million bbls. (115 million gals.) of gasoline and 500,000 bbls. (21 million gals.) of diesel fuel within an eight-day period. This is enough to fill the tanks of more than seven million cars once distributed from the ports to service stations across the state.

The vessels began discharging as soon as local fuel depot and port authorities gave the all clear to do so. Grune noted that berth availability is limited even when fully operational. “As a result, we expect that fully loaded vessels will experience significant delays waiting in line to discharge. Crowley’s vessels, and those of other American operators, are supplying as much fuel to Florida as the shoreside supply chain can accept and distribute.”

The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, also known as the Jones Act, is a federal statute that requires that all goods transported by water in U.S domestic commerce be carried on American vessels.

Crowley’s Jacksonville-based petroleum distribution group is one of the largest independent operators of petroleum barges and tankers in the U.S., specializing in bulk petroleum and chemical transportation. Its articulated tug-barge (ATB) and tanker fleet ranges in size from 20,000 DWT to 45,800 DWT.