37 maritime industry groups is urging Congress and President Joe Biden to fund a new relief program to strengthen an industry weakened by the effects of COVID-19.
As the group said, despite container surges at several large ports, commercial cargo volumes have fell significantly across the industry. Namely, total waterborne trade volume is down 5.5% compared to last year, while the value of this trade has crashed by 12.7% totaling $200 billion.
In addition, passenger movements remain virtually nonexistent with operations not expected to resume for months. Expenses have greatly risen becaue of COVID-19 protocols and precautions that have been established to ensure the health and safety of staff. These extra costs borne by the industry to keep supply lines open are above and beyond the normal costs of operations, says the coalition.
The groups also warned that the trends could continue and worsen as the pandemic intensifies over the next several months.
Now, the groups want to see money for the industry included in the next COVID-19 relief bill and funded through the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Program. This program authorizes the U.S. Maritime Administration to award grants due to emergencies, including the current pandemic.
Those eligible for receiving money from the fund include U.S. entities in maritime transportation, such as vessel owners and operators, ship construction, and maritime training. As for the eligible costs for relief, these include cleaning, sanitization, personal protective equipment, fuel, debt payments, workforce retention, and infrastructure repair.
Commenting on this call, AAPA President and CEO Christopher Connor, said that during these uncertain times, the U.S. maritime industry and its workforce has sustained the movement of food, medical supplies, and other essential goods to our communities. He also added that this emergency relief will ensure operational continuity at the elevated level.
In a similar move, maritime regulators recently appealed directly to Biden that immediate vaccinations be given to U.S. dockworkers, many of whom work at the country’s largest container ports.