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US Ports request $3.5 billion in COVID-19 relief as cargo plummets

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In a letter to the US Congress a number of maritime transportation groups have urged $3.5 billion be provided to the sector.

The letter suggests that should the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2021 be enacted in advance of further COVID19 relief, Congress could direct these funds through the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Program.

Through this action the Maritime Administration would be authorised to provide grants to help defray business-critical expenses that we have incurred due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  

The request comes as the group says that commercial cargo has plummeted – total waterborne trade volume is down 6.3% compared to last year, while the value of this trade has crashed by 13.9% totaling $200 billion.

“The relief we’re seeking is about ensuring ports and other maritime transportation businesses are able to keep pace with the accelerating costs of protecting their workers while keeping their workforce employed, and maintaining a state of readiness so they can significantly aid in the nation’s eventual economic recovery,” said AAPA President and CEO Christopher J. Connor in a statement.

Connor noted that while recent news reports show a resurgence of trade at some of country’s largest container ports, “the truth is that most ports are still suffering financially, particularly those that handle non-containerized goods, like steel, grain and other bulk commodities. Even most container ports have large business portfolios that include handling critical, but poorer performing commodities that put a financial drag on their ability to pay the added costs of protecting their workers.”

The letter concludes by saying it is essential that the US maritime industry maintain a state of readiness and sustain our critical responsibility in the supply chains that provide food, medical equipment, and other essential goods for the citizens of the US.

“Without assistance from Congress to cover our pressing needs, we fear that we may not be able to continue operations at the high level that Americans have come to depend on. We hope that you can provide this critical emergency relief to the maritime industry as the next COVID-19 relief bill moves through Congress,” the letter said.

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