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New House Bill Would Provide Relief for U.S. Ports, Maritime Operators

mississippi towboat william alden
File image courtesy William Alden

By The Maritime Executive 07-09-2020 06:45:00

On Thursday, Representatives Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY) and Peter DeFazio (D-OR) introduced a new bill to provide financial relief for maritime stakeholders who have been impacted by COVID-19. 

Their proposed Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act would establish a broad MARAD-run grant program to allocate maritime assistance and emergency relief funds. Recipients would include port authorities and other eligible maritime supply chain participants in shipbuilding, waterborne transportation and other maritime support activities - for example, harbor pilots, assist tug operators and training schools.

“The men and women who work within the Maritime Transportation System are part of our nation’s essential workforce that has been key to keeping critical goods moving during the global pandemic, and for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude,” said DeFazio, who chairs the House Transportation Committee. “But our thanks are not enough. We must also ensure that stakeholders across our maritime industry have the resources and equipment they need to keep the global supply chain moving and stay safe while doing so. The legislation we are introducing today will give the maritime sector the same protections and relief given to other industries during COVID-19, and will close a huge gap in current federal emergency assistance that has left links in the maritime supply chain isolated and unable to access other assistance programs available to other industries.” 

If the authorization bill passes and is followed by an appropriation of funds, MARAD could provide maritime sector entities with assistance for a wide variety of expenditures, including debt service payments, infrastructure repairs, payroll costs, and COVID-related cleaning and PPE expenses. It would not reimburse ports or operators for lost revenue, noted the American Association of Port Authorities, but it would allow them to retain their employees and meet their financial obligations. The federal share of the grant allocation would be 100 percent. 

“COVID-19 relief is critical for the port and maritime industry in response to challenges faced as a result of the pandemic. Relief grant funds will help U.S. ports to manage the impact that this pandemic is having on their ability to function efficiently and for maintaining a ‘state of readiness," said American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) president and CEO Christopher J. Connor. “While we know that this is an authorization bill, it’s AAPA’s hope that the bill be adopted with a strong intent for its funding and that Congress will move expeditiously."