America’s Ports Call on Biden and Congress for Emergency COVID Funds
The American Association of Port Authorities is calling on the U.S. Congress and the Biden Administration to provide emergency relief funding for the country’s maritime transportation system as part of the next COVID-19 relief package. Highlighting the critical role the ports play in maintaining commerce and keeping goods flowing, AAPA joined by 35 other maritime industry groups point out that while financial assistance has been given to other modes of transportation it has not been provided to ports, many of which have seen dramatic declines in their revenues in the past year.
“Despite container surges at several large ports, commercial cargo volumes have plummeted across the industry,” AAPA writes in letters to President Biden and the leaders of the House and Senate. Noting that the surge in containers has not benefitted many ports they say that, “total waterborne trade volume is down 5.5 percent compared to last year, while the value of this trade has crashed by 12.7 percent totaling $200 billion. Passenger movements remain virtually ceased,” while expenses have greatly increased for to the COVID-19 protocols and precautions.
The letter goes on to explain that before the pandemic, over 650,000 Americans were employed in jobs generated through the movement of marine cargo, while in total 30.8 million jobs were supported by cargo movement through America’s deep-draft ports. They also highlight that ports extend to rural areas of America where they are contributing to local economies, dispensing public services, and assisting small businesses often at the port’s expense.
“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. This emergency relief will ensure operational continuity at the elevated level which Americans have come to depend on,” stated Christopher J. Connor, AAPA’s President and CEO.
The ports and maritime industry groups are asking for the funding of the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Program. Established by Congress in 2020, this program authorizes the Maritime Administration to award grants due to emergencies or disasters, including the current pandemic. It would include inland and coastal ports providing aid to help mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.