AAPA: Ports are First Line of Defense
Chris Connor, President and CEO of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), has issued a statement about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak saying:
“While the global economic impacts to the port and maritime industry from the coronavirus outbreak are significant and growing, the human impacts are our greatest concern. Since ports are a nation’s first line of defense against threats ranging from terrorism to pathogens, they take their role seriously about protecting the safety and well-being of their communities.
“In the U.S., ports are closely following instructions and protocols from appropriate federal agencies to quickly respond to the coronavirus threat. Like AAPA, they believe the most important things are to ensure that as few people as possible become infected, that those who have been infected are well treated and receive quality care, and that we mourn for those whose lives have been tragically cut short by this pathogen crisis.
“For seaborne trade and travel, it’s both a blessing and a curse that there’s a two-week latency period for coronavirus symptoms. The lag time gives our ports, Coast Guard, Customs agents and health officials time to prepare for screening and, if needed, quarantine or rerouting of crew members or travelers thought to be infected. AAPA keeps its U.S. member ports connected daily with these federal agencies and recommends its member ports also work closely with their specific Captain of the Port for local notices and updates.
“By law, it’s up to incoming mariners and ship operators to report if anyone is thought to be sick on-board. These protocols are always in place for our on-guard industry.”
Supply chain disruption is a different issue, says Connor. The overall economic impact of this type of crisis can easily run into the tens of billions of dollars. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, cargo volumes at many U.S. ports during the first quarter of 2020 may be down by 20 percent or more compared to 2019. “While we haven’t yet heard specifics about the impacts to the cruise travel industry, we echo what the Cruise Lines International Association is saying, which is that while the relative impact to global cruise operations isn’t extensive at this time, we recognize that the impact on even just one person is significant.
“Things will rebound eventually, and indeed we’re hearing news about factories that are coming back on-line in China, and ports there ramping back up to move the cargo. At the same time, supply chain managers around the world are working tirelessly to keep cargo moving to ensure that the goods we need are available when and where we need them.”
On February 3, 2020, the U.S. Coast Guard issued a Marine Safety Information Bulletin stating that vessels carrying passengers who have been in mainland China within the previous 14 days will be denied entry. Other vessels with crew members who have been to mainland China within the previous 14 days, with no sick crew members, will be permitted to enter and conduct normal operations, but crew members will be required to remain onboard with very limited exceptions. If a crew member who has been to mainland China within the previous 14 days is brought onboard a vessel in transit to the United States, the master must immediately notify the Coast Guard.
For commercial travelers, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is limiting entries from the affected regions to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, and their immediate family members. CBP has also set up additional screening at ports of entry.
AAPA recommends its U.S. member ports stay in close contact with their specific Captain of the Port for local COVID-19 notices and updates.
AAPA recommends contacting the U.S. Coast Guard’s Office of Emergency Management with specific questions about the maritime response to the outbreak. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.