(ALEXANDRIA, Va.) — Chris Connor, president and chief executive officer of the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), issued the following statement Saturday about the outbreak of coronavirus COVID-19:
“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 crewmembers 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.”
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, Connor said. “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 online 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.”