(WASHINGTON) — A coalition of 37 maritime industry groups is asking Congress and President Biden to fund a new relief program to strengthen an industry weakened by the effects of COVID-19, FreightWaves.com reported.
“Despite container surges at several large ports, commercial cargo volumes have plummeted across the industry – 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,” the groups, which included the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA), warned in letters sent to congressional leaders and the White House on Tuesday.
“Passenger movements remain virtually nonexistent with operations not expected to resume for months. Expenses have greatly increased due to COVID-19 protocols and precautions that have been put in place to ensure the health and safety of staff, and these extra costs borne by the industry to keep supply lines open are above and beyond the normal costs of operations.”
The groups also warned that the trends are likely to continue and worsen as the pandemic intensifies over the next several months.
“To date, no dedicated funding has been provided in any of the COVID-19 legislative packages to assist the maritime transportation system despite emergency relief being provided to other modes of transportation.”
The groups want to see money for the industry included in the next COVID-19 relief bill and funded through the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Program, a new program created as part of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2020. It authorizes the U.S. Maritime Administration to award grants due to emergencies, including the current pandemic.