FMC seeks financial aid for Baltimore businesses

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FMC seeks financial aid for Baltimore businesses

Carl Bentzel, Commissioner of the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC), has written to US President, Joe Biden, seeking financial aid to staff and businesses that have been stifled by the recent events that have transpired in the Port of Baltimore.

In late March, containership Dali hit and collapsed the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore, Maryland, resulting in terminal closures to all maritime traffic arriving or leaving the Port of Baltimore.

In his letter, Bentzel thanked the US President for his swift response to the Key Bridge collapse at the time of the incident.

Since the accident, the Port of Baltimore has opened three temporary channels for vessels to access the port while workers continue to remove debris scattered on the Key Bridge. These temporary channels were particularly for “commercially essential vessels”.

Despite the efforts made by the port to mitigate the situation, the FMC remains unconvinced that full reopening to all vessels will occur before the end of May.

READ: First commercial vessel sails through Baltimore’s new channel

Bentzel has thus sought relief similar to that of what was provided during the pandemic where financial aid was given to workforces devastated by the economic shock administered by COVID-19.

“During the pandemic, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, commonly referred to as the CARES Act. Section 4112 of that legislation authorized and provided funding to the U.S. Department of the Treasury to make payments to workforces devastated by the massive economic swings during the pandemic,” said Bentzel.

“In particular, passenger air carriers, cargo air carriers, and certain contractors benefitted from the continuation of payment of employee wages, salaries, and benefits this statute provided.

“Collectively and over the course of the pandemic, in excess of $66 billion dollars was provided to the aviation industry between 2020 to 2022.”

According to Bentzel, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, local workforces and companies have experienced “economic upheaval”. Bentzel thus suggests that the CARES Act provides a pre-existing framework to offer relief assistance to individuals and businesses affected by the ongoing blockade of the port entrance.

READ: Shipping rates remain stable amid Baltimore bridge collapse

“The maritime industry never stopped working during the pandemic,” Bentzel continued.

“While other service industries, such as aviation, were forced to stay home during the height of the pandemic, it was maritime and intermodal services that kept delivering what turned out to be record-setting cargo volumes.

“Now members of the maritime industry and community need relief. Thousands of employees in the Baltimore region are directly or indirectly reliant on the port for their livelihood.

“We should support them in their period of need to the same level as we did other transportation workers during the pandemic.”

Last week, the BBC reported that Baltimore filed a lawsuit against the owner and manager of the Dali, the ship that collided with and destroyed the Key Bridge.

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