Citing harsh financial losses triggered by the covid pandemic, a coalition of U.S. seaports and other maritime transportation entities today petitioned the federal government for $3.5 billion in coronavirus relief funding, according to the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA).
Citing “significant hardships” and “unique and unexpected challenges” posed by the pandemic, AAPA and its partners made the joint plea to Congressional leadership and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin this week, pointing to a nearly 14% drop in U.S. cargo value due to pandemic conditions. The funding would be used to combat the virus and to ensure the safety of the industry’s workforce, which includes 652,000 port workers deployed to “essential” jobs moving critical freight.
Pushed by tailwinds like the winter holiday peak season, the U.S. economy has been recovering gradually from a recession triggered by virus-prevention shutdowns, but economists warn that a full return will rely on a second stimulus bill to follow the $1.7 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security bill, known as the CARES Act. However, passage of that next round of federal spending has gotten snagged in negotiations during the contentious election season and the outgoing Trump Administration’s delay in supporting a transition to a Biden Presidency.
In the meantime, ports may have been busy as measured by the volume of containers they process, but that doesn’t mean they have been profitable, AAPA President and CEO Christopher Connor said in a release.
“The truth is that most ports are still suffering financially, particularly those that handle non-containerized goods, like steel, grain, and other bulk commodities. Even most container ports have large business portfolios that include handling critical, but poorer performing commodities that put a financial drag on their ability to pay the added costs of protecting their workers,” Connor said.
He pointed to U.S. Census Bureau statistics showing that for the first 10 months of 2020, the cruise industry has come to a standstill while the value of waterborne commerce through America’s ports plummeted $200 billion, or nearly 14%, compared to the same period in 2019. That is now posing a problem for ports that have racked up an increasing bill for extra costs required to fight the spread of the virus, he said.
.@AAPA_Seaports & our members are unified behind, and advocate for, three critical core issues for 2020: Emergency relief, vital port maintenance & strong, resilient infrastructure. Read more in our new Policy Priorities document https://t.co/5TnRBhx3Jw #PortsDeliver #PortsUnited pic.twitter.com/xS6Qm9RBnV— American Association of Port Authorities (@PortsUnited) December 4, 2020