Port authorities urge for crtical relief from US government to manage COVID-19 impact

Port authorities urge for crtical relief from US government to manage COVID-19 impact
Christopher Connor, CEO and president of AAPA

US port authorities have advocated for critical relief to manage the “extremely negative impacts” on the seaport industry brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic as US policymakers begin negotiations on the next coronavirus aid package.

Letters have been sent to the US House, Senate and Administration leaders urging them to provide US$1.5bn for seaports to cover business-critical expenses that ports have incurred due to COVID-19.

In these letters it sheds light on how ports have been neglected in previous coronavirus aid legislation despite being crucial for ensuring the nation is able to quickly recover.

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

Christopher Connor, American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) president and CEO, said: “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.

“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 refused ports’ ability to invest in necessary infrastructure maintenance and upgrades, and make their debt and bond obligation payments.”

Furloughs and layoffs have begun in the maritime industry and across the supply chain as a result of the pandemic.

Connor noted that relief grant funds will “help American ports to manage the impact this pandemic is having on their ability to function efficiently and maintaining a state of readiness.”

He continued that the relief US ports are seeking are not about replacing lost carrier, cargo and cruis passenger revenue but to ensure that ports are able to keep pace with the accelerating costs of protecting workers while keeping the workforce employed.

Ultimately, Connor stated, it is about maintaining a state of readiness to significantly aid the nation’s eventual economic recovery.