US ports urge Congress to include sector in COVID-19 aid package

Golden hour photo of the New Jersey Dockyard in Upper Bay, New York City. Numerous cranes, gantries and shipping containers lit with street lights. Taken from a helicopter.

The American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) has urged US lawmakers to give the port industry $1.5 billion to cover business critical expenses incurred during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a statement, the AAPA said it had sent letters to US House, Senate and Administration leaders stating the critical role ports play in helping the country recover from the worst effects of the pandemic.

Additionally, the letters claimed ports have been neglected in previous COVID-19 aid legislation – policymakers are currently negotiating on the latest COVID-19 aid package.

Based on a 2018 port economic impacts study, the COVID-19 pandemic could result in a direct loss of 130,000 jobs at U.S. seaports, according to the AAPA.

“Due to the COVID-19 crisis, America’s seaports are experiencing significant financial challenges as commercial cargo has plummeted and passenger travel has nearly ceased,” said AAPA President and CEO Christopher J. Connor.

“At the same time, their expenses for things such as personal protection equipment for their workers, sanitation protocols often requiring extensive worker overtime, safety and disinfection supplies, and even security, have greatly reduced ports’ ability to invest in necessary infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, and make their debt and bond obligation payments.”

Connor went on to say that the pandemic-induced furloughs and layoffs have begun in the maritime industry and across the supply chain. Relief grant funds, he said, “will help American ports to manage the impact this pandemic is having on their ability to function efficiently and for maintaining a state of readiness.”

“The relief we’re seeking isn’t about replacing lost carrier, cargo and cruise passenger revenue,” Connor continued.

US ports have suffered substantially throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, in particular the major gateways to trade with China, the ports of Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland.

However, those on the East Coast have fared slightly better and have not been as badly affected by blank sailings and the lingering US-China trade war.

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