The following is text of a news release from the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA):
(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) — Federal shipments of 2.4 million reusable cloth facial coverings will begin arriving this week at ports and related maritime transportation operations around the U.S. that requested them, due to the efforts of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), its member port authorities, and a host of port industry partners, including the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Maritime Administration (MarAd).
The face masks are being distributed to about 400 maritime transportation entities nationwide for use by their essential personnel, including those working at seaports, inland ports, marine terminals, tug and barge lines, vessel pilot groups, dredging operations, supply chain logistics companies and others. The masks are part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) multi-prong approach to keep essential businesses working while continuing to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
"As chair of the Department of Homeland Security’s Maritime Sector Coordination Council (MSCC) Task Force, which was formed to advise the federal government of maritime-sector needs, AAPA was successful in obtaining orders for the cloth masks in late May from FEMA on a tight weekend timeline,” stated AAPA Government Relations Director Cary Davis, who served as AAPA’s lead on the project. “For weeks prior to that, we worked with our maritime partners to aggressively advocate for an allocation for essential maritime transportation workers. The MSCC worked with other transport sectors – such as rail and truck – to obtain some face coverings from FEMA, and that combined work resulted in our maritime allocation.”
According to Davis, MarAd was instrumental in working with the MSCC to define the maritime industry’s needs to FEMA for issuing the cloth face coverings.
“I’m proud that the Maritime Administration, FEMA, and U.S. maritime industry organizations are supporting the Herculean efforts of those at sea and ashore who are keeping the supply chain moving by providing 2.4 million cloth face coverings to help protect these critical infrastructure workers and their families,” said MarAd Administrator Mark Buzby. “Our industry’s tradition of service to the nation – "In War and Peace" – is well-represented by the mariners, port operators, longshoremen, shipyard workers and many others who are keeping essential cargoes moving during this crisis.”
The protective mask distribution effort supplements the ability for essential transportation-sector workers to obtain reusable cloth face coverings while there continues to be impediments to procure them through the open market. MarAd recommended face mask orders address only the short-term needs for critical essential function personnel, such as longshore labor and marine terminal stevedores, port security workers, drayage truck drivers, and administrative workers.
“The health and safety of our workforce and the essential personnel on the front lines of the Port of New York and New Jersey, such as the longshoremen and truckers, is always our top priority," said Bethann Rooney, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s Port Department deputy director. "We’re grateful for the assistance of FEMA and MarAd to help buoy our supply of face coverings for those workers so that we can continue safe operations at the port and ensure fluidity of the supply chain across the region.”
AAPA, together with trucking, railroad, natural gas and waterfront employer associations, also signed onto a letter advocating for S. 3728, the Critical Infrastructure Employee Protection Act of 2020. Introduced by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, the legislation would ensure the U.S. Department of Transportation gets the next allocation of personal protection equipment (PPE) for transportation essential workers after priority is given to medical, healthcare, police and fire. The maritime sector will be included as a PPE priority group if this bill passes.